World of Mosses website

A Graphic Guide to Ontario Mosses

by Robert Muma


Bryophyte Ecology


BRYOPHYTA is the collective name given to a group of closely related cryptogamous plants we call mosses (MUSCI) and liverworts (HEPATICAE).  These bryophytes are believed to have evolved directly from the green algae which is the simplest form of aquatic plant life.

Thus the mosses and liverworts are the first land-based forms of plant life we know of.  A few species of mosses are still aquatic, but most mosses can survive long periods of dry weather successfully because their structure is such that they absorb moisture very quickly and soon "revive" again, even after long periods of drought.  All mosses, besides requiring a continuing source of moisture for their survival, also need the medium of water for sexual reproduction.  The sperm, in order to reach the nearest ovum, must swim through a film of moisture (from rain or dew) over the surface of the plant (see the Life Cycle page).  It is obvious then, that mosses flourish most readily in moist and cool habitats.

Another significant feature of the bryophytes is that they do not take nourishment from the soil directly as the fibro-vascular plants do by means of a central core and an elaborate root system.  The bryophytes have no roots as such, nor a central core, but absorb all the nutrients they require from the air and from the minerals washed by the rain from the foliage of trees and other plant life overhead.  Many mosses also have their stems coated with a thick coat of very fine hairs called tomentum which collects and stores moisture for the plant's nourishment.


With these facts in mind, the typical moss habitat can be described as "moist, cool, and shady places".


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