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Leafy Liverworts

12-12-13 Frullaria 008Plants that have no conductive (vascular) tissue are referred to as bryophytes. They include mosses, hornworts and liverworts, all of which reproduce with spores and do not form flowers or seeds. Liverworts are common in the tropics, but certain species are plentiful in New England. They are divided into two groups: flat, leafless thallus liverworts and leafy liverworts, which typically resemble flattened moss. You can easily confuse leafy liverworts with mosses but there are microscopic differences between the two. If you examine them under a microscope, you will find that leafy liverworts have leaves that are arranged in two or three rows while the leaves in mosses are spirally arranged. Liverworts of the Frullania genus, such as the liverwort pictured in this post, are classified as leafy liverworts. They typically have a reddish-brown color and attach themselves to a tree or other plant, obtaining moisture and nutrients from the air.

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9 responses

  1. patricia corrigan

    More info for Ranger Mike to use on his Guided Nature Walks.

    December 12, 2013 at 1:23 pm

  2. Cindy

    Hmmm. Kind of like seaweed. (And looks like it!). Seaweed has “holdfasts” (I believe they are called) – not roots – that attaches to rocks and things in the water. Then gets all it needs from the water. Their color (green, red, or brown) depends on the amount of sunlight they receive. (Each type attaches itself accordingly at the correct depth.). Seaweed is profoundly rich in nutrients. Do you ever notice things eating these plants?

    December 12, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    • Hi Cindy,
      There are specialized invertebrates that eat leafy liverworts, but I don’t know their genera and species!

      December 12, 2013 at 8:19 pm

  3. Susan Sawyer

    Hi Mary! Thanks for posting this. Can’t say too much about bryophytes! This one is so tiny that it’s best seen under the microscope — but the genus is very common on tree trunks and sometimes all over rotting logs. (It’s spelled Frullania rather than Frullaria.) The big leafy one we see in the north woods is Bazzania trilobata, which makes very thick green cushions. Is that in your area?

    December 12, 2013 at 3:16 pm

  4. joan waltermire

    Bryophytes are fabulous. They do reproduce by spores, but the whole story is even better. There are two stages in their life cycle — really two alternating generations. One produces spores, and the other produces swimming sperm and eggs. The embryo that results from sexual reproduction grows into a plant that produces spores. Ain’t nature grand?

    December 13, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    • Thank you, Joan! I couldn’t figure out a short way to describe what you so cleverly described in just a few words…thank you!

      December 13, 2013 at 1:39 pm

  5. Al

    Joan, when I was teaching botany for non-science-majors at Keene State many years ago, I tried explaining it something like this: there are these organisms in which the female’s reproductive structures are on top. The male produces sperm, which, when things are wet (from rain, perhaps), can swim from the male to the top of the female, fertilize the egg, and produce offspring who are sexless. These offspring produce powder-like spores, which float away and give rise to sexual offspring. An individual resembles its grandparents and grandchildren, but not its parents or offspring.

    December 15, 2013 at 6:33 am

    • Excellent, Al!

      December 15, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    • joan waltermire

      I’ve tried various ways to teach it too! I’m sure you’ve felt the same despair I did when you try to explain what goes on in gymnosperms and angiosperms!

      December 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm

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