Bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and spleenworts)
By: Christopher Cookson
Last Modified: 26-8-2021 15:24
Bryophytes are a class of non-vascular plants (plants that lack specialised vessels to transfer water and nutrients) that include mosses and liverworts. Over 1,000 species have been identified in New Zealand. Many bryophytes are small, and easily overlooked, however some can grow to reasonably large sizes. Instead of reproducing by seed, bryophytes reproduce with spores. Unlike vascular plants and animals, the dominant stage in the lifecycle of bryophytes is haploid; that is the organism only has one set of chromosomes instead of two sets. Bryophytes do not have roots, but may have rhyzoids which help attach them to the ground. Bryophytes are some of the first colonisers of bare ground.
In Marlborough, bryophytes can be found everywhere from urban to alpine environments. Moss in lawns is often regarded as undesirable, although it does not compete with grass, and is simply an indication of soil conditions that may be damp, shady, or acidic. On the other hand, the presence of bryophytes is a good indication of high water and air quality. Bryophytes are tolerant to low light, so can be one of the dominant types of plants on forest floors and as epiphytes on trees. In the native forests of Marlborough including Mount Richmond Forest Park, the Marlborough Sounds, and the upper Wairau, many different species of mosses can be found on the forest floor. Even in harsh alpine environments such as the exposed Black Birch Range, mosses can be found amongst other alpine plants.