The Star-headed Liverwort

The star-headed liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha) is normally a rather bland and inconspicuous plant growing as a flat ribbon of cells on the surface of rocks and stones. However at this time of year it transforms itself as it ‘flowers’.

Marchantia polymorpha 2
Here are the female reproductive parts of the liverwort (a plant closely related to mosses). They produce this mini forest of umbrellas.

Marchantia polymorpha 1

From above you can see the umbrellas along with the darker green flat part of the plant.

Marchantia polymorpha 3In the centre of this picture there is a round leaf with a circular cup on it – this is the male reproductive part

This is a common liverwort and can be found all over Britain but only becomes easily identifiable when the female reproductive parts emerge. There are three distinct sub-species: montivagans which grows in base rich springs in upland areas and on sand dunes; polymorpha which grows on natural rocks and stones and ruderalis which grows on man-made surfaces.

My photos are of ruderalis – it is growing between the paving stones in my garden.

Worth looking out for as it is rather striking.


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