The naturalist walking through the forests and wetlands of Northeastern Connecticut searches for the hidden flowers and listens to the songs of the birds. The mosses and liverworts that cover the trail bank, color the tree trunks in shades of green and form soft cushions or carpets on the boulders, typically pass unnoticed. Yet several hundred species of Bryophytes occur in our region, and provide important services to the ecosystem, including partially controlling water movement, decreasing erosion, and providing microhabitats for numerous invertebrates. They can even dominate the vegetation in an area or, as in rainforests, compose a majority of the biomass in a local area.

Bryophytes are common, diverse and locally abundant. A closer look at their architecture, habitat, and life history provides insights into the ecological roles of bryophytes, the challenges encountered by plants on land and the solutions to some of these obstacles. This guide is not a field guide to the bryophytes of the forest. Accurate identification of bryophyte species often requires observation of microscopic characters. The guide aims to highlight some of the species common to the area and to raise awareness of bryophytes as a component of our forests, presenting aspects of plant biology through the “eyes” of a bryophyte.


I write a blog that aims to communicate information about mosses to the public. I discuss news, research articles, common species, and fun facts.

Communicating clearly and effectively is an important skill for scientists to practice and master. I believe that scientists using their voices to educate about and advocate for science is critical to both increasing the public’s support for and government funding of research.

Copyright © 2015 JM Budke

Grade Levels 9-12

These laboratory exercises were designed to help students to better understand the concept of chemical competition in ecology using the moss Sphagnum.  These exercises aim to show students that not all competition is carried out by animals and not all competition is a physical battle, as most of the traditional examples show.   By using the chemical alteration of the environment by Sphagnum, students can also be taught about pH, in a biological framework.  As a result, the labs can be used in either an ecology unit or a chemistry unit, within a biology course. 

Laboratory Resources for Biology Teachers

Chemical Competition in Peatland Plants using the Moss Sphagnum

Powerpoint Introduction – Includes 15 slides that introduce the concepts of competition, ion exchange in Sphagnum mosses and succession in peatlands.

Click here to download the Powerpoint IntroductionOutreach_files/SphagnumIntroduction.ppt
Click here to download the Teacher’s NotesOutreach_files/SphagnumLabTeacherNotes2012.pdf

A Visit to the Miniature Forest - Brochure

Insights into the biology and evolution of Bryophytes in Northeastern Connecticut

Click here to download a color PDF version of this brochureOutreach_files/MiniatureForestWebFinal2012.pdf

Contact Dr. Bernard Goffinet ( to order printed versions of this brochure.

Click here to download the Laboratory ExercisesOutreach_files/SphagnumLabStudent2012.pdf

Moss Culturing Protocol for Growing Mosses in the Classroom

Click here to download the Culturing ProtocolOutreach_files/MossCulturingInstructions12June2012.pdf

Mosses can be used to demonstrate fundamental characteristics of both bryophytes and the plant life cycle in general. Using mosses in the classroom, students can see phenomena such as the formation of antheridia, the male sex organs, and archegonia, the female sex organs. Moss reproduction can also be taught, as students will have the opportunity to see fertilization and sporophyte development firsthand. This real-world visual also aids in the understanding of haploid and diploid stages experienced during bryophyte development and sexual reproduction.

I have led workshops focusing on mosses and ferns at a variety of outdoor venues in Connecticut. I taught members of the public how to identify the most common plant species. We focused on interesting aspects of plant biology including the ability of mosses to survive complete drying, long distance dispersal of spores, and the antimicrobial properties of peat mosses.

             Outdoor Botany Presentations

James T. Goodwin Conservation Center Hampton, CT

The pincushion moss Leucobryum

Laboratory Exercise 1 – The ability to alter the pH of the water surrounding it is compared between Sphagnum moss and another non-moss aquatic plant.

Laboratory Exercise 2 – The ability of Sphagnum to alter the pH of the water surrounding it is compared with and without additional ions.

Teacher’s Notes – Pre-laboratory preparation, data collection, and Sphagnum collection are covered.