Thursday, 21 April 2016

Post 403 - Lovely Little Liverworts

Hey everyone today's Post 403 and I'd hoped to bring you an update on my last post about litter and McDonalds using plastic in their packaging. I have had a nice email from them but that was really just telling me what I'd already found out on their website about their environmental policy and apologising for not responding quickly. One of the Environment team was copied in and I'm hoping they get back in touch to see if they can use different materials for some of their packaging. I'll let you know when I get a response. It might help if you haven't already to retweet or comment on my tweet asking them to not use plastic in their packaging so they know there is a lot of support for this.  

So, instead of an update on this, on to something different for today`s post. I often post Twitter that I have seen a tiny forest around a plant or flower or something along those lines, but I usually don't say what it actually is.
Well, this is where I say it now. The ones in this photo are Lovely Liverworts and they are actually quite special little plants in my eyes. To me they look like something out of the Enchanted Wood or The Magic Faraway Tree and those are still some of my favourite books from when I was really little and they were also my first and favourite chapter books. Now the reason that they look like this to me is that whatever the plant in the middle is the Faraway Tree and everything around it is the Enchanted Wood.

Liverworts at Garbutt wood in their sexual reproductive state -
Species is  (Pellia epiphylla) thanks @SeymourDaily
They are also special as I see them in some wonderful places. The first one was from Garbutt Woods, a really lovely woodland on the side of the North York Moors under Sutton Bank next to Lake Gormire. Even the names are wonderful about this special place. Some of the other photos are from around Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens - which is a world heritage site, so another really special place that I like to visit.

But let's get on to a more scientific part of the post with the facts:
  • Each 'Tree' itself is actually really small but they can develop into rather large patches.
This is an old well at Fountains Abbey
  • The first Liverworts have been around since about 200 million years before even the dinosaurs were around, being 470,000,000 years old (that's 470 million!).
  • There is fossil evidence from Argentina that shows that Liverworts were the earliest plants to colonise land on earth!
  • They have been around since before most more 'advanced' plants such as flowering plants, ferns, etc. and they have been referred to as 'the simplest true plant'
  • Instead of bearing regular roots, liverworts anchor themselves with simple, one-celled appendages known as rhizoids which are like little hairs. 
The back wall is covered in Liverworts
  • Unlike tree leaves which have veins that conduct water, nutrients and other materials, in liverworts there is conducting tissue.
  • Liverworts reproduce in two ways it seems. On some parts of liverworts are special little cup like structures. Inside the cups grow little pieces of liverwort plant. These pieces must be really little! Liverwort plants are little, each 'leaf' is only around 1cm squared. The cups are small structures on the plant which in turn contain small bits of the plant! Anyway, when it rains and drops splash onto these cups little bits of plant are carried off with the droplets to a new bit of ground to grow a new liverwort.
  • There is another sexual reproductive method for Liverworts which I have read about a few times and there are lots of biological names for each cell type and each stage that I sort of understand but it is a bit complicated. You'll find out more about it in the links below.
This ribbon type liverwort is on a wall a little way
along from the well.
  • Basically (I think) different plants develop male and female structures like the ones in my first photo. They need to be in wet places as the male cells need a film of water to swim to the female cells. Once fertilised the female cells develop spore capsules and when released the little spores are dispersed to grow into new liverworts.
Well, a simple plant that a lot of people probably don't notice, but they are fascinating! Here are a few links to find out a bit more about them.

Hope you enjoyed,


1 comment:

  1. Great shots here Zach, they do look like tiny forests! - Tasha