Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Prairie Naturalist (September-December 1976) 8(3&4): 44-57.


Copyright 1976, North Dakota Natural Science Society. Used by permission.


This account initiates a series of articles concerning the mosses of the Great Plains. The boundary of this region (Fig. 1) is adopted in part from a parallel study currently in progress on vascular plants (McGregor et aI., 1977). However, in addition, this moss study includes that region of Canada studied by Bird (1962). The total area included in this study of the Great Plains thus occupies about 665 thousand square miles, extending from southern Manitoba to southeastern Alberta, south to northeastern New Mexico and northwestern Oklahoma.

Crum, Steere and Anderson (1973) have listed 1,170 species, 267 genera, and 58 families of mosses for North America, north of Mexico. Based on literature records, there are 333 species, 118 genera, and 39 families of mosses for the Great Plains. No regional moss study has ever been conducted for this region of the United States, and, except for Kansas, none of the Great Plains states have been studied in much detail. Further field and herbarium work will be needed in order to know the kinds of mosses and their distribution within the Great Plains.

The Great Plains is often conceived as an uninteresting region of little floristic diversity. But this region is more than just flat prairies and plains. The diversity of the vegetation is made evident from the 21 vascular vegetation units recognized by Kuchler (1964). The mosses parallel this diversity of the vascular plants.