Bryophytes are mosses and liverworts. Mosses and liverworts are ancient non-flowering members of the plant kingdom. They are more often than not very small, although readily form carpets covering large areas. They have wonderful common names like Flapwort, Haircap or Sheathed Timmia, and scientific names that are impossible to remember such as Brachythecium rutabalum. On some of the bigger and thus more familiar species like Sphagnum you can make out their form quite well with the naked eye. On the smaller ones you have to work harder, you will require a microscope or hand lens to peer into this secret world or ‘hidden forest’. Once there you will see the weird and wonderful morphological intricacies present. Non-flowering means there’s no flowers or seeds, but there are reproductive structures known as antheridia (male) and archegonia (female); these can be as magical as their floral counterparts. In liverworts some have umbrella-like structures, whereas others keep their reproductive elements hidden in tiny cup-like pockets on the leaves. Mosses have stalks called setas which end with pod-like capsules. Sometimes these capsules have teeth called peristomes. Then there are the ever present leaves or thalli, which come in a endless variety of shapes and sizes, some translucent skins, others colourful and bushy, some grow up and some grow out. Taking photographs is not easy, a macro-lens might not be enough, with micro-photography perhaps the best way to go.
The British Bryological Society does a really good job in the UK of publicising and caring for these plants. Even owning a copy of their publication Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland, will make you feel more aware of the existence of this world. Here of course we are fascinated by plant form, by the beauty of it all, from this our appreciation grows. Thanks to the BBS website and their member photographers for use of images.
Diphyscium foliosum capsule photographed by Des Callaghan
Marchantia polymorpha ssp. ruderalis photographed by Peter Martin
Orthotrichum stramineum photographed by Des Callaghan
Schistostega pennata photographed by Sean Edwards
Sphagnum fimbriatum photographed at Wartle Moss
Catascopium nigritum photographed by Martin Robinson
Sphagnum subnitens photographed by Stephen Buchan
Lophozia wenzelii photographed by Des Callaghan
Conocephalum salebrosum photographed by Jonathan Sleath
Conostomum tetragonum photographed by by Des Callaghan
Scapania lepida photographed by Dan Wrench
Bryum warneum photographed by Des Callaghan
Hedwigia ciliata var leucophaea photographed by Des Callaghan
Sematophyllum substrumulosum by Des Callaghan