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Home > Gardens | CANBR > Plant Information > Plant Groups > Bryophytes > Groups

Mnium undulatum : Migula illustration

The bryophyte groups

In this part of the website you'll find descriptions of the features you can see in the three groups of bryophytes – the hornworts, liverworts and mosses. The aim is to give you a good understanding of bryophyte structure and of the similarities and differences between the three groups.

The following links will take you to separate sections about the three groups.




In those sections you'll find descriptions of the gametophytes and sporophytes, with illustrations of both naked eye and some microscopic features.

If a bryophyte has sporophytes it's very easy to tell whether you have a moss, a hornwort or a liverwort. However, without a sporophyte it becomes harder. In particular when trying to determine whether you have a moss or a leafy liverwort. The leaves of mosses and the leafy liverworts show a variety of features that are very useful in telling the two apart. The BRYOPHYTE LEAVES SECTION compares the features of the leaves of mosses and leafy liverworts.

If you read the contents of the links above, you'll get an understanding of the similarities and differences between the three groups. Those similarities and differences are summarised in the following section: WHICH BRYOPHYTE IS IT?, which makes free use of terms defined in the other sections referred to above.

How to look at a bryophyte

You can see a number of crucial bryophyte features with the naked eye. However, if you want to have a good look at a bryophyte use a hand lens that magnifies at least 10 times. Magnifying glasses typically magnify only 2 to 5 times.

While you would need a microscope to see some of the finer features, such as the cell shape inside the leaves, you can see a lot at 10 times magnification.

Many bryophytes change appearance dramatically as they dry out. In general, bryophytes curl or fold up in some way as they dry, then uncurl or unfold when they re-moisten. It is impossible to see many of the distinguishing features in a dry bryophyte. To properly look at a dry bryophyte you'd usually need to wet it, wait for it to open up and then look.