CMU scientists discover a new species of moss

25 June 2021

Faculty of Science

Moss, overlooked by many, is a subject of interest to CMU scientists, who have discovered a new species of moss in the resource conservation area of the Chiang Mai University Hariphunchai Education Centre, Lamphun Province.

Mosses in the Koponobryum genus and the Pottiaceae family were originally endemic to India and only one species was reported, which is Koponobryum bengalense (Gangulee) Arts (Arts, 2001). It is a dioecious plant with a sharp apex, light to translucent green colour, with a long cuspidate base, fairly round cells in the middle of the leaf, and one node at the front and back. It produces round, smooth spores and has axillary hairs of 70 micrometres in length composed of three cells – two brown cells at the short base and one translucent tip hair cell.

The recently discovered moss is called Koponobryum papillosum Printarakul & Chantanaorrapint (Printarakul et al., 2021) and its general characteristics are strikingly similar to K. bengalense. However, a thorough morphological study reveals three distinctive characteristics. 1) It is an autoicous plant - the female reproductive organ is at the end of the tip and the branch that produces the male counterpart is to the side of the axis in a slightly lower position. 2) It produces round and papillose spores (hence the species’ name, ‘papillosum’). 3) The axillary hair cells are about 75 to 135 micrometres in length, composed of two to six cells – one of which is the brown, shortest base cell and one to five others are hair tip cells that are longer and translucent.

Found in the Northern part of Thailand, this species of moss grows on land in deciduous dipterocarp and mixed deciduous forests at 400 to 700 metres above the sea level in Chiang Mai (Mae Sa Waterfall, Doi Suthep–Pui National Park, Mae Rim district, and Huai Sop On, Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary) and Lamphun (the resource conservation area of the Chiang Mai University Hariphunchai Education Centre).

The success of this study is owed to the support and collaboration from the Thai Bryophyte explorer team from Chiang Mai University (Dr. Narin Printarakul, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Arunothai Jampeetong, Mr. Udon Pongkawong, and Miss Kanonrat Adunkittichai), Prince of Songkhla University (Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sahut Chantanaorrapin), Burapha University (Assoc. Prof. Dr. Phiangphak Sukkharak), and Kasetsart University (Assist. Prof. Dr. Ekaphan Kraichak), and was funded by the Thailand Research Fund and the Plant Genetic Conservation Project Office, CMU.