Brian and Camilla

Norwood Road, London, SE24

Peeking out from their cozy cove, what did these little mosses behold but a crowd of budding bryologists in waterproof jackets peering through tiny magnifying glasses, their big eyes just millimetres away from the friendly fronds of some of the neighbouring mosses living on the next wall along.

I was one member of this curious crowd, using a magnifying lens to enter an intriguing tiny world. We were all on a special mossy walk entitled ‘Urban Ramble: Meet Your Local Mosses’. It involved examining mosses on walls, pavements and bollards along a short stretch of road on either side of a big house which is home to the wonderful South London Botanical Institute (SLBI).

The SLBI contains a herbarium (draws full of dried flattened plants, useful for research purposes), a panelled library full of old botanical books, and a themed and formally laid-out botanic garden. The SLBI is also currently running a whole month of free ‘Mad About Mosses’ events – which is how I came to meet this lovely pair.

Of course, I’m no stranger to the delights of moss-appreciation that can be enjoyed on any urban street, but using a magnifying lens was really exciting (so much so that I’ve already ordered one of my own) and it was fun to be a part of an inquisitive and earnest collection of moss-admirers whilst learning how to identify one moss from another – I discovered that these little fellas are called Brian and Camilla, although I’m not sure which one is which.


Actually that should be ‘these little fellas are called Bryum capillare’. My mistake.

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