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.


The Devon Bryophyte Group go to Fingle Woods

Yesterday the Devon Bryophyte Group visited Fingle Woods to help the National Trust and the Woodland Trust assemble a moss and liverwort species list for the site. I joined them for the morning.

Devon Bryophyte Group
Part of the group investigating a stream

Fingle streamMosses and liverworts in these Dartmoor woodlands love damp shady places

Jubula hutchinsiaeThis is a close up of one of the rarer and specialist species we found – Jubula hutchinsiae, Hutchin’s hollywort – note the teeth at the end of blades. It likes growing under rocks in streams and it a very western species – Dartmoor is a national stronghold for this species

Racomitrium aquaticumThis is Racomitrium aquaticum – Narrow-leaved Fringe-moss – lives on top of rocks that receive a good flow of water – another very western/northern species in the UK

Pogonatum aloidesThis is Pogonatum aloides – Dwaft haircap – identified by the distinctive white flat tops to the capsules

Pogonatum urnigerumThis is Pogonatum urnigerum – the Urn haircap – found on acidic gravelly tracks

Leucobryum juniperoideumAnother classic species of upland Dartmoor oak woods – Leucobryum juniperiodeum – the Smaller White-moss

Dicranum majusAnd finally Dicranum majus – the Greater Fork moss – a characteristic species of Dartmoor oak woods

Thank you very much to the team of volunteers from the Devon Bryophyte Group – a very friendly and knowledgable group who kindly helped me with identifications and general information. Looking forward to seeing a full species list. I think it will show that Fingle Woods – despite the planting of large areas of conifer is a very good and important place for these groups of plant.

Mosses make our woodlands and walls what they are

This year I am going to brush up my mosses ID skills – ‘brush up’ makes it sound a quick process – I am starting from a pretty low base so it will be quite an effort.

It is easy to think that during the winter and early spring that there are ‘no plants to look at’ – OK there are very few flowers out but there are hundreds and hundreds of amazing looking mosses and liverworts.

Thuidium tamariscinumThis is Thuidium tamariscinum or the Common Tamarick moss – found the following three species in woodland beside the Teign on the Castle Drogo estate

Polytrichum communePolytrichum commune or Common haircap

Dicranum scopariumDicranum scoparium Broom fork moss

Grimmia pulvinataGrimmia pulvinata Grey cushioned Grimmia –  a common species on walls

As I said before – it is early days so if I have identified these incorrectly please let me know!