Mosses and Liverworts

Forssell-Skarman, Larobok I Botanik, Stockholm, 1911

Forssell-Skarman, Larobok I Botanik, Stockholm, 1911

Often inseparable from lichens are some of the so-called “lower” plants, the bryophytes. The group usually includes Mosses (Bryophyta/Musci) and Liverworts (Hepaticophyta/Hepaticae). It does not include the horsetail (Equisetophyta/Equisetopsida) shown to the right in this illustration.

This charming illustration is from a Swedish botany text that provides a linguistic lesson in itself. From it we learn that the true mosses are Bladmossor, liverworts are Levermossor, and lichens are completely different, Lavar (or maybe Lavarne, not sure of my plurals here), or, in German, Flechten. In either case, not mosses, as we shall see. (For more on Not Mosses, see A Word about Mosses.)

Thank goodness for Latin! With it, we are reassured that the upper left drawing is of Marchantia, a typical thalloid liverwort, and lower left is Polytrichum commune, a prototypical true moss. You really should click on this image to enjoy it in more detail.

I recently discovered a great moss site with amazing photos of mosses and mossy landscapes in Germany. Match it with Moss Plants and More, a little closer to home. Makes me wish Colorado had humidity!

Although it too is a cryptogam (Greek, hidden + marriage), or spore-bearing plant, the horsetail (Equisetum arvense here) is a vascular plant. As such, horsetails, along with ferns, occupy the scale below the so-called “higher” plants, that is, those that produce seeds and, often, colorful flowers. Does that help?


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