Field of Science

Sporophytes of the Liverwort Aneura

 A few weeks back I took these photos of some liverworts in the genus Aneura. They are of the diploid sporophytes (two sets of chromosomes per cell). At maturity the ball shaped capsule is rapidly elevated on a thin, thread-like stalk. The capsule opens via four vertical sits to expose and disperse the spores within.

 When the capsule is immature and before the stalk has elongated the sporophytes look like these two images below. The capsules are the darkened areas at the tips.

An interesting aspect is that the stalk elongates quickly. Unlike mosses the stalk of the liverwort sporophyte does not become longer from cell divisions. It becomes longer by all the cells in the stalk expanding and elongating by increasing the liquid inside of their cells. That is why the cells of the stalk are clear. They are stretched very thin. Keep your eyes peeled for this type of sporophyte. This morphology is a key feature for identifying a liverwort.


  1. i have a picture of what I THINK is a liverwort-i would be delighted if you could identify it for me thanks so much

  2. Feel free to send it along to my email I can take a look at it and see what I can tell you about it from the photo.

  3. Mats H G GustafssonNovember 25, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    I have a pretty large collection of liverworts, and I would like to get help with some determinations, and also donate duplicates to an institution where they will be used in research. Anyone aware of any herbarium (scientific collection of dry plants, as is found at many of the major universities) where researchers are actively studying liverworts?


    Mats (swede living in Denmark)


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