The intricate details of bryophytes were recently described at an educational seminar sponsored by the Nebraska Native Plant Society, and hosted by Dr. David M. Sutherland. The session was held in a laboratory on the fifth floor of Allwine Hall, at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, on March 27th, a Saturday morning with gray skies, morning precipitation and somewhat chilly temperatures prevalent.
Weather conditions outside may have been a factor why more than 30 people attended the inside program hosted by Professor Sutherland, a UNO biology professor. Dr. Robert Kaul, a career botanist from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, also attended to assist with informing people about flora.
Both of these professors have had an essential and profoundly important role in the recent history of Nebraska flora, and to have both of them present was indicative of the value of the event.
Dr. Sutherland started by giving an hour-long visual presentation which showed the intricate, and prominent details of bryophytes - in amazing detail - to the attentive audience, and where applicable, included maps of distribution for species in Nebraska which had never been previously presented in a public venue.
Dr. Sutherland handling a fresh growth of bryophyte material..
Dr. Kaul and Dr. Sutherland.
It was obvious that understanding bryophytes included knowing essential details of their life-cycle and morphology, based on accepted and essential scientific terminology. Dr. Sutherland provided a handout listing definitions for terms essential to understanding and identifying species of bryophytes.
The images used were from a variety of sources, ranging from locally focused efforts to the exquisite works of bryophyte enthusiasts of the world, with each image distinctly attributed in the manner typical of a botany professor cognizant of the essentials for defining the scholarly source of information.
There are about 130 species of bryophytes in Nebraska, which includes liverworts, hornworts and mosses, Sutherland explained.
Many of the species discussed were from local parks, natural areas and other similar areas with a variety of settings conducive to bryophyte survival. Particular places mentioned included Fontenelle Forest - a privately-managed preserve, at Hummel Park and Dodge Park which are maintained by the Omaha Parks and Recreation Department, and at Schramm Park State Recreation Area, a state of Nebraska property.
Some very common species could be found among urban places, including the relict natural habitats of the creeks in Elmwood Park, adjacent to the UNO campus.
One species shown has a history based upon a single instance of occurrence from 1888.
One detail worth noting, was that many species of bryophytes do not have a common name, and are only known by their scientific moniker.
After the presentation, attendees could look very closely at fresh examples of the miscellaneous species typical of the Missouri River valley. There were more than a dozen dissecting microscopes setup with various samples that could be viewed in closeup detail.
The history of bryology in Nebraska is mostly based in the past. There are exceptions, including the information derived by Roland Barth, from his pictorial depictions for the natural history of Fontenelle Forest along the floodplain and bluffs of the Missouri River in Sarpy County.
Kay Kottas, Roland Barth and Loren Padelford at the bryophyte session. Barth and Padelford are involved with NatureSearch, an online guide to living things in Fontenelle Forest and Neale Woods.
Not much has been done on bryology in Nebraska since it received some attention more than 35 years ago, with the efforts of Steve Churchill, Kaul and Sutherland said. Churchills was a university student at the time and focused on identifying the species known, and where they were known to occur in Nebraska.
In preparation for the seminar, Dr. Sutherland, with some help, visited Schramm Park on the Platte, to gather samples of fresh material for the Saturday program, and the result was quite spectacular.
There were several new records of occurrence for species of bryophytes in Sarpy County, Dr. Sutherland said.
Dr. Sutherland and Dr. Kaul agree on the biggest challenge for knowing more about the bryophytes of Nebraska.
They both explained more surveys need to be made to be able to better realize the current distribution of bryophtes in Nebraska.
Enthusiasts need to get out and make new records, the botany professors said.
Babs and Loren Padelford, and Dr. Sutherland discussing features of bryophytes at Allwine Hall.