An Overview of the Bryophytes (Nonvascular Plants) Help

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Aug 30, 2011

Bryophytes (Nonvascular Plants) Overview


The two most familiar types of bryophytes are the mosses and the liverworts ( LIV -er-werts). The word, moss, descends from the Old English for “bog” – a marsh or swamp consisting of soft, wet, spongy ground. A moss is a very small, soft, brown or green plant that grows closely together with others of its kind, forming a living carpet on rocks, trees, or ground. Mosses have short stems and many slender leaves. Decaying sphagnum ( SFAG -num) moss (also called peat moss ) is especially common in bogs. Peat ( PEET ) is heavy turf made of tightly packed mounds of partially rotted sphagnum (peat moss) and various other plants. Peat is used as a fertilizer and is commonly burned as fuel in Scotland, Ireland, and England, where there are many peat-containing bogs.


Liverworts are given two alternate names – liverleaf and hepatica (hih- PAT -uh-kuh). In humans and animals, the shorter word, hepatic (hih- PAT -ik), literally “pertains to” (-ic) the “liver” (hepat). Obviously, the words, liverwort and liverleaf, actually contain the smaller word, liver, while hepatica contains the Latin word for liver. A glance at Figure 9.3 will reveal the reason. The liverwort (liverleaf, hepatica) is a low-lying plant with brownish-green, three-lobed leaves that resemble the human liver, which also has a number of lobes. The resemblance of the hepatica plant leaves to the liver, created the ancient belief that eating this plant cures jaundice ( JAWN -dis) and a number of other liver diseases!

The Plants: “Kings and Queens” of the World of Green An Overview of the Bryophytes (Nonvascular Plants)

Fig. 9.3 The liverwort, liverleaf, or hepatica plant: Lobed leaves like the human liver.

Living Habits And Reproduction Of The Bryophytes

Because both mosses and liverworts are bryophytes (nonvascular plants), they can live only in free-standing pools of water. Having no vascular (vessel-bearing) system or roots to transport fluid, nutrients, and waste products, they must grow upon pools of water (however tiny and shallow). Such a tiny pool might even occur in a shadowy cleft on the sun-baked face of a desert rock. A pool even this small may be just enough to allow the bryophyte plant to absorb water and nutrients into its nonvascular tissues, and survive.

A water pool is also needed as a fluid medium, so that sperm cells can travel from the male bryophyte plants and fertilize the female plants.


Practice problems for these concepts can be found at: Plant Test

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