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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…
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.
• 29 March to 1 April, 2024—Santa Rita Mountains, south of Tucson, AZ. Details and registration information here.
• 30 May to 2 June, 2025—Mattole Camp, Humboldt County, CA
See SO BE FREE for a history of the annual foray.
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 local events 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). We have a liaison with many chapters, and through them a local event can be arranged. Contact your local liaison from the About page.
Intermediate-level bryologists gather as groups of friends to work on identifying their plants communally. In a couple of casts, these groups tackled large projects such as a checklist of a local park or a photographic key to a difficult genus. Recently a group has been meeting at the UC Davis herbarium. See recent issues of Bryolog.
Mini-Grants and Travel Scholarships
If you are a college student (graduate or undergraduate) who is doing research on mosses, liverworts, or hornworts in California, apply for a mini-grant. Applications due 1 July and 1 January. LINK TO RFP.
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.