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Liverworts

Liverworts, along with mosses and hornworts, are classified by botanists as bryophytes – non-flowering plants that lack vascular (conductive) tissue. It is possible, even likely, that liverworts were among the first plants to make the transition to life on land. Their appearance varies according to the stage in which you see them, but the plants we think of when we think of liverworts are very small (less than an inch in diameter and about 4 inches in length) and can be relatively flat, growing very close to the ground. Liverworts have two basic stages, the dominant one being the flattish, leaf-like gametophyte. It produces male sex organs (antheridia) which produce sperm and female organs (archegonia) which produce eggs. The stalked, fringed, palm tree-like structures in the photograph are egg-producing archegonia, and the stalked, lobed structures are antheridia. Both are less than an inch tall and are produced on the same plant (unlike 80% of liverwort species that produce their sex organs on separate plants). The sperm must reach an egg in order for fertilization to take place, and it usually does this by swimming through rain water or dew. Once fertilization occurs, the second stage of the plant, or sporophyte, develops. The sporophyte produces spores, some of which will grow into gametophytes and the cycle (called alternation of generations) will repeat itself.

6 responses

  1. Gordon Gribble

    Interestingly, H. G. Wells in “The Time Machine” writes that the only living things on Earth 30 million years from now as observed by the Time Traveler are “livid green liverworts and lichens.”

    June 28, 2012 at 11:51 am

  2. Yeah, they’ve always felt alien and/or ancient to me-

    June 29, 2012 at 9:41 pm

  3. Nice blog! This liverwort is a Marchantia sp.

    February 4, 2013 at 5:55 pm

  4. Hmm it appears like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum
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    September 14, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    • Your site is already a lot more sophisticated than mine! I really am doing this by the seat of my pants, and am not at all technologically gifted. Just get up every day, photograph and post about what I find! Good luck.

      September 14, 2014 at 10:31 pm

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