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Welcome to the World of Bryology

Welcome to the World of Bryology

The Study of Mosses, Liverworts and Hornworts

Web Bryology edit


Recently I was invited to join my local group of Bryologists, dedicated to the study of bryophytes. It was an invitation that I could not refuse, so armed with a hand lens and notepad, I set off to a local area of protected woodland. For the next two hours I was immersed in another world. Things, that I would pass by without giving a second glance, suddenly became objects of huge fascination, but only because I was in the presence of several people with immense knowledge and huge enthusias. As a result of my morning, I can now identify several common Moss types and Liverworts. This is a big subject and there is a lot to learn, as there are over 1.000 species in the UK.
This country is rich in bryophytes, having about 58% of the total European flora. Small in scale, they are easily overlooked, but under magnification or close inpsection, their beauty and complexity is revealed and they are just as, maybe even more interesting, than other flowering plants and ferns.
These are ancient plants, with a history dating back 450 million years and are thought to have evolved from ancestral green algae; they have thrived through a range of drastic climate changes.
Bryophytes don’t have roots, insead they have rhizoids (small hair like structures that anchor the plant to its surface). Using photosynthesis to make their own food, they reproduce by spores instead of seeds, and rely on wind dispersal.
We all know what Moss looks like, but what is a Liverwort? They are small, flowerless plants with leaf-like lobes called a thallus, which looks like a lobed liver, hence their common name. Diminutive in size, they are often overlooked, found in pavement cracks and damp shady places, but they provide important microhabitats for insects and microrangisms. Hornworts are also included in this plant division. On my inaugural field trip we didn’t discuss Hornworts so I am going to leave them out for the time being!

Essential reading ‘BBS Field Guide of Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland

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