Bryophyte Chapter

celebrating mosses and such

Photo: Paul Wilson
Bryum argenteum, a moss
Targionia hypophylla, a liverwort
Anthoceros fusiformis, a hornwort

The Bryophyte Chapter (CNPS’s first state-wide chapter) aims to increase understanding and appreciation of California’s mosses, liverworts and hornworts, and to protect them and the habitats in which they grow. SEE MISSON

What are Bryophytes?

At the base of the tree of life of land plants, four lineages emerge: liverworts, mosses, hornworts, and vascular plants. The vasculars are the plants people are most familiar with—ferns, conifers, flowering plants, etc. The other three lineages are bryophytes. Vasculars have well developed tissues for conducting water and photosynthates, whereas bryophytes have simpler conducting tissues or sometimes none at all. In addition, vasculars have a life cycle dominated by the sporophytic phase, the stage of life that makes spores and that has two sets of chromosomes in its cells, whereas bryophytes have a life cycle in which the sporophyte lives out its whole existence growing on the gametophyte, the stage of life that makes eggs and sperm and has cells with one set of chromosomes. The green leafy parts of a moss that occupy a rotten log or a soil bank are gametophytic. Bryophytes tend to be small. They cannot move materials around very far internally and instead take them up directly across the surface of most cells. This has a profound effect on their biology. For instance, a moss can receive its nutrients from dust and aerially deposited ions, whereas a vascular receives its nutrients from root hairs and mycorrhizae. Bryophytes tend to be desiccation tolerant. Many can dry out completely, and after re-wetting they come back to life in minutes. Typically bryophytes can also grow asexually from fragments. Almost any fragment of a moss could grow up to be a new plant given the right conditions. A fair fraction of bryophytes have specialized asexual propagules. Collectively bryophytes may or may not actually be a single branch on the tree of life. To be safe, it is better to think of the mosses, the liverworts, and the hornworts separately. SEE RESOURCES—BEGINNER

Some of the things we do…

People with microscopes and cameras

Annual Forays

Each year we have a multi-day foray full of the joy for bryophytes, called SO BE FREE. The location of SO BE FREE varies widely from year to year. Beginners are welcome, and old masters will be present.
• 30 May to 2 June, 2025—Mattole Camp, Humboldt County, CA
See SO BE FREE for a history of the annual foray.

people looking at plants on a boulder

Events with Local Chapters

Much of our activity throughout the year involves Moss Walks and Lectures given to local chapters throughout the state. The best of these have also involved a college that has a lab with microscopes that the community can use (under supervision of a staff member who is also participating). To schedule a walk or talk, contact your local chapter liaison from the About page. Check Bryolog for upcoming scheduled events.

Monthly Meetings

Our monthly meeting is held on the fourth Thursday of the month at 7 pm, PT, on Zoom, featuring a Taxon of Today, a Couplet of the Month, or a short presentation by an invited speaker, and general open discussion. See Event Updates for details.

bridge in wild land

Student Grants

If you are an undergraduate or graduate student doing research on mosses, liverworts, or hornworts in California, apply for a grant. Applications due 01 January. LINK TO RFP.

Dan Norris, the first author of the California Moss Flora


Although the project seems to have been stalled for lack of funding for quite some time, it is our long-term goal to create a full-on manual for identification of California mosses. Check out the early prototype California Moss eFlora. And an example of a photographic key to the Orthotrichaceae in the state.


Inventory of Rare Bryos

As with vascular plants, CNPS inventories rare bryophytes. You can find our chapter’s plants under Advanced Search – Biology – Non-vascular. An example of a rare bryophyte that is also quite distinctive is Geothallus tuberosus. Its total range is small, centered in San Diego. It is the only member of its genus, perennially regrowing from tubers. The rare bryophyte chair’s contact is on the About page.

If your CNPS membership is affiliated with the Bryophyte Chapter (and you’ve not opted out of receiving emails), then you will automatically receive Bryolog, our quarterly newsletter. Others are welcome to subscribe to Bryolog, or to unsubscribe.