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The mission of the International Association of Bryologists (IAB), as a society, is to strengthen bryology by encouraging interactions among all persons interested in byophytes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

defining long and large

Subject: Re: BRYONET: World's most extreme bryophyte (in terms of size)
Date: Wed, 26 Nov 2008 22:38:53 +0200
From: Neil Bell <>


There are some really big Polytrichadelphus spp. in the Andes (Peru,
Columbia), e.g. P. giganteus and P. ciliatus, but I don't think these
are recorded from Brazil. There are some highly unusual (although not
large) endemic Polytrichaceae in Brazil however (Itatiella, Oligotrichum
riedelianum), as well as one or two poorly known Polytrichum "names" in
addition to the well known species, so perhaps there are some monsters
out there!

Like Juan Larrain I have also seen some very large Dendroligotrichum
specimens in Chile (although not quite 60cm); I have also seen some
pretty small alpine forms however. I suppose the problem in picking a
"winner" is definitions. Is the largest species the one that has
produced the single largest specimen known, or the one that commonly
produces the largest plants (how commonly...?). "Self-supporting" is
also a continuous variable in practice; some plants are long but
buried in the substrate, pendent (to varying extents) or completely
prostrate, others erect but with varying degrees of "denseness" of
growth... "Longest" and "largest" (in the sense of total biomass of an
individual plant derived from a single protonemal bud) can be
objectively measured but are perhaps not very interesting or significant
in themselves, while other measures of total plant size, that better
encapsulate what we think of as "big", are difficult to quantify.


Neil E. Bell
Postdoctoral Researcher
(Bryophyte Systematics)

PO Box 7
00014 University of Helsinki

+358 9 191 24463

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