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Liverworts: Definition, Habitat & Facts

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In this lesson, you'll learn about the liverwort, including where it gets its name. We'll also take a look at liverwort habitat requirements, and some interesting facts about these unique plants.

The Liver Plant

How do plants get their names? Sometimes it comes from what they look like, or at least what the person naming them thinks they look like. In other cases, the name is related to what people think the plant can do. In the case of liverwort, it's both! Liverwort is a small plant that grows flat on the ground or rocks or trees, much the way moss does. It has leaves that can grow in long ribbons or smaller bunches. Liverwort was named because it was thought to resemble a liver. It was also thought that it could be used to cure liver diseases, though now we know this is not the case.

In reality, the name 'liverwort' refers to around 9,000 different species of plants within phylum Marchantiophyta. Despite the vast number of species, liverworts are all fairly similar. They are non-vascular, which means they do not have the tissue that most plants have to carry water throughout the plant. This is why they grow flat. Without the vascular tissue known as xylem and phloem, liverworts cannot grow upwards.

Liverwort has to grow flat because it lacks vascular tissue.
Liverwort

Where to Find Them

Liverworts are, for the most part, very hardy plants, and they can be found on every continent. There are even a number of species that live in Antarctica! There are some aquatic liverwort species as well, but you will not find them in the ocean because they cannot tolerate high levels of salt.

The main habitat information regarding liverwort is that they prefer to live in damp areas. Due to their low ability to transport and store water, they must be able to absorb it continuously. However, as long as the habitat is moist, liverworts can withstand very harsh climates. They live on rocks and in cold areas as well as the tropics. In fact, they are often found attached to rocks or even living on tree trunks. Liverworts thrive living directly on soil as well.

Liverwort lives on every continent, even Antarctica.
Liverwort 2

Interesting Facts

Liverworts are different from trees, bushes, and other common plants in many ways. First of all, liverworts do not have roots. Instead, they have rhizoids. Rhizoids are small, hair-like fixtures on the bottom of liverworts that help attach them to rocks, trees, or soil. Liverworts also use rhizoids to help collect water.

Another difference is that liverworts do not reproduce using seeds or fruit. Instead, they have spores, just likes mosses and many fungi do. Finally, liverworts do not have stomata, the pores that many plants use to help with photosynthesis. Despite their lack of stomata, liverworts still perform photosynthesis in much the same way as other plants.

There are two overarching types of liverworts: leafy and thalloid. Leafy liverworts are very simple. They have thin leaves and lose water easily. By the same token, they also take in water easily, and having thin leaves makes it easier to collect water from all parts of the plant and move it without using too much energy.

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