Here was another first for me (I think!). It sure was the first time I remember seeing this, and definitely the first pictures.
First of all, Bryophytes include mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. They reproduce by similar but odd means. What you see when you look at the plants are the equivalent of seeing eggs and sperm. I'm not about to try to identify this liverwort, but its one of the thallose ones (like a leaf, duh). These spreading "leaves" each have half the chromosomes of the plant.
Some are female, some are male, but they all look alike until they grow these stalks. The stalks are what I don't recall seeing before. The heads in these pictures all look alike. I think if they were opened out more you could tell the male antheridia from the female archegonia.
So the archegonia contain eggs, and the antheridia have sperm. These get together and produce a zygote with the full set of chromosomes. We're used to thinking of this as the "real" organism. You and I, and trees and puppies have full sets. But you'll never see the "real" liverwort unless you hunt for it and bring a microscope.
The zygote (fertilized egg) becomes a sporophyte, which spits out single-celled spores- once again with only half the chromosomes. The spores take root and grow into new little "leaves." See the small bright green "leaves" in the picture.
Liverworts can also reproduce asexually, but no display of that this time. I've never gotten pictures of that either. There is lots to learn about bryophytes, even if I never manage to identify one with genus and species!
And, yes, ancient people thought liverworts were good for the liver. No actual medical value has ever been proven.
In other news: I wrote a chapter in The Bigg Boss, and got my Books Leaving Footprints newsletter just about ready to send. I'm just waiting to confirm a date. Put some stuff away.
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