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Nature Elective

Mosses first posted July 7, 2004 last updated July 7, 2004



The very first group of plants the took benefit of the brand-new territory, land, to be the mosses and also their allies, the liverworts and hornworts. Together, they are referred to as the bryophytes. They are land plants, but do not have actually a vascular device (xylem and also phloem), seeds, or flowers. The other land plants space the ferns and also their allies (horsetails, whisk ferns), which have spores and also a vascular system; conifers, which have a vascular system and seeds however no flowers; and flowering plants, which have a vascular system as well as seeds and also flowers. Let"s see just how the mosses are different from the other land plants, and from lichens (a mutualistic association of a fungus and also an birds and/or a bluegreen bacteria).

You are watching: How do moss plants get water

Moss cultivation along a tiny creek that flows right into Austin Creek, just over camp

Land plants have a difficulty that aquatic photosynthetic organisms (such as algae) don"t have: lock live in 2 worlds. Lock live in the world of soil, where they obtain their water and nutrients. Yet they also live in the people of air, wherein they obtain their sunlight and carbon dioxide. This two civilizations are really different, and also in fact are almost opposites. The human being of soil has actually no sunlight, yet lots the water. The civilization of air has actually lots that sunlight, which often tends to dried up every the water and also dry up the plant. Land plants had actually to develop means of coping through these two opposites, and also connecting them. If you space the plant, having actually water in your roots does not aid you much if friend cannot transfer it come the leaves which have the sunshine for photosynthesis; making street in the leaves execute not carry out you much great if friend cannot move them to the root because that storage. Land plants eventually solved this difficulty by occurring structures such together roots, leaves, a stem to affix them, and a vascular mechanism to carry nutrients, water, and also metabolic assets such as sugars and hormones.


"leaves" that moss
cells in the "leaf"
another check out of "leaf" cells

The first land plants, however, walk not have actually these systems. Mosses started the march top top the soil by occurring primitive equipment to attend to the problems of living on land, however do not have totally developed roots, leaves, stems, and a vascular system. Mosses absorb your water and nutrients directly into your bodies, not with their "roots". Instead of roots, they have rhizoids, which offer to stabilize the moss but do not have a primary duty in water and nutrient absorption. They absence a vascular system both in their rhizoids and in your above-ground parts. They also lack lignin, which is a facility compound the stiffens the trunk of greater land plants. This is why mosses room so soft. Their "leaves" room actually single-cell special leaf-like appendages. True leaves have several layers of devoted tissues. The lack of vascular tissue pressures mosses to be quite short, since they cannot carry water, nutrients, and metabolic products.

Mosses do have actually a property that vascular plants carry out not have: they can dry out and still come ago to life. Doing not have roots, and therefore a ready means to acquire water every the time, mosses had actually to it is adapted to a feast or famine technique to water. Mosses have the right to dry the end to a amazing degree, however spring ago to life with simply a single sprinkling that water (this is quite fun to do once you see dryed the end moss ~ above a hike). Higher plants would die with a similar degree of desiccation.

Alternation of Generations

All plants have an change of generations. The two generations are dubbed the sporophyte generation (generates the spores) and the gametophyte generation (generates the gametes, the egg and also sperm). In mosses, the gametophyte generation is the larger, an ext easily seen generation. That is the leafy, green component that us think of as a moss. The produces the gametes, the egg and the sperm, which develop the sporophyte generation.

The sporophyte generation has three parts, the foot, the seta, i beg your pardon is the small, commonly brown slender stalk (see illustration in ~ right) the sticks up past the green, leafy moss, and the capsule, i beg your pardon is a bulb at the tip of the seta. The capsule consists of the sporangium, which contains the spores.

For a great illustrated explanation the the life bike of a moss, view the University of Auckland, new Zealand, website.


Mosses, then, room land tree without a vascular system, seeds, or flowers, with a dominant gametophyte generation.

The SIU webpage top top moss is a lot of fun. The University of british Columbia biological 321 website is wonderful and also a source of plenty of of the above illustrations. The University of new Zealand website has a big collection of photos of mosses and also their life cycle.


This ar is largely based on the excellent book Biology, by Campbell and also Reece. The is a college message for beginning biology students. Ns cannot introduce it extremely enough. If it has actually been a couple of years (!) due to the fact that you have had actually biology, you will certainly not believe how much things have changed. Not just is there a lot more known about biology, the presentation the the material is vastly improved. From message that is closer to literature than dry explanation, to shade illustrations and color photographs that space so commonly used, ns doubt that in its whole 1240 pages, there are any without at the very least three or much more color graphics of some sort. And that does not even begin to discover the enclosed CD or connected online material. I will certainly eat my hat if girlfriend don"t love the book. I bought mine online, in ~

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The photographs that the moss through sporangia room from the University the Manitoba organic sciences webpage and from the University of brothers Columbia botany webpage.