Umbrella Liverwort

June 15, 2020


Photographer: Kathy Arbuckle 
Summary Author: Kathy Arbuckle 

Is this some prehistoric tropical jungle on an untouched island? What creatures roam among these palm trees? Well, this photo was taken on the edge of my gravel driveway in the Spokane, Washington area.

I’m intrigued by the similarity between these 1/2 inch (12 mm) tall mini-palms and the genuine stately tropical trees. This small-scale version is a member of Marchantiophyta, a division of non-vascular land plants. The Marchantia polymorpha is known as the common liverwort or umbrella liverwort. These palm-like structures are called gametophores. They grow up from a rosette of thalli; low, flat, lobed leaf-type forms. The gametophores have archegonia below their fronds that produce ova, or eggs that are fertilized by the male antheridia of the liverwort. The liverwort also reproduces asexually through the release of lentil-shaped gemmae from cups on the tops of the thalli. When struck by raindrops, the gemmae are scattered over a wide area to take root and grow.

Found worldwide, from the tropics to the arctic, the liverwort lives in damp habitats on rocks and soil. I even find it in my greenhouse where it is somewhat of a horticultural weed. Often, Marchantia Polymorpha is the first to appear after a wildfire has ravaged an area. It grows and establishes itself, stabilizing areas, restoring the health of the soil and then will disappear when other native species of plants have become firmly re-established after a few years.

Also noteworthy is the fact that this liverwort produces a strong anti-fungal, proven to be an effective treatment for skin and nail ailments; such a beneficial and helpful organism, which isn't a palm tree at all. Photo taken on June 4, 2018.

Photo Details: Camera: NIKON COOLPIX P90; Software: Nikon Transfer 1.3 W; Exposure Time: 0.013s (1/75); Aperture: ƒ/3.2; ISO equivalent: 100; Focal Length (35mm): 41.