A Detailed Handbook On The Difference Between Liverworts And Mosses

A Detailed Handbook On The Difference Between Liverworts And Mosses

Liverworts, hornworts, and mosses are the major three plant groups of the phylum Bryophyta. They are not like the higher plant groups and do not come with a circulatory system. 

They have often been termed the amphibians of the plant kingdom as they can only thrive in shady, wet environments. There are some major differences between liverworts and mosses, which helps you understand the key characteristics in a detailed way. 

This article will compare Liverworts and Mosses to facilitate a deeper understanding. 

They are known to reproduce asexually through spores. Only when the environment is a wet one do they show sexual reproduction, and therefore, this showcases generation alternation. 

If you are curious and want to know more about liverworts and mosses, it is important to first understand what liverworts and mosses are. Then we will move on to their similarities and differences.

Liverworts- What Are They? 

Non-vascular plants, liverworts, come with a prominent gametophyte. It comes with any of the two-leaf-looking stems or lobes. They belong under the phylum Bryophyta of the division Marchantiophyta. Leafy liverworts are known to contain a single cell layer on their leaves; however, thallose liverworts contain several such cell layers. 

You can see liverworts at plenty of places mainly sprawled across rocks, soil, and other such surfaces and on plants. The rhizoids, which look like roots, are what help the plants stay attached to the substrate and absorb water for growth. The leaves are there in a flattened pattern arranged in two or more rows.

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The not so prominent sporophyte generation develops from gamete fertilisation and produces the sporangium found at the apex. Liverwort, as mentioned, can be found at different places, and the most common liverworts examples would be Porella, Riccia, and Marchantia. 

They cannot produce seeds, fruits, wood, or even flowers like other higher plants do and also lack vascular tissue. They are highly primitive and completely different from advanced plants because they do not have stomata. 

Their application is mainly observed when higher plants use them for taking CO2 for photosynthesis into the leaves. 

Mosses- What Are They? 

Moses also comes with rhizoids and also reproduces through spores. They are found in different conditions and weathers, including rainforests, wetlands, and alpines. 

You can find their colonies on sidewalks, driveways, man-made structures, and even brick walls. Wet conditions and weather is the most favourable spot for their growth. They fall under the Bryophyta division and within the subdivision Musci. 

You would find close to 14.500 species of Mosses all over the globe and form 75% of most Bryophytes species. Gametophytes that come with sperm cells are thinly covered with water in order to travel to other gametophytes for fertilisation. This will then help with the growth of sporophyte, which later becomes spores. 

In mosses, the gametophyte generation is often prolonged and dominant over the sporophyte one. These sporophytes can only develop when they get the right nutrition as well as water from the gametophytes. 

Main Characteristics Of Liverworts 

  • They are smaller plants compared to the higher advanced plants. 
  • You will not find any root stem on liverworts. 
  • Thalloid is the plant body having an underground structure popularly known as rhizoids. 
  • The thallus is dorsiventral. 
  • Known to asexually reproduce by gemmae formation.
  • There are generation alterations witnessed among liverworts. The sporophyte generation is known to produce the spores, which then gives rise to male and female gametophytes. 
  • The female and male gametophytes then produce the zygote forming the spores, completing the life cycle of liverworts. 

Main Characteristics Of Mosses 

  • They inhabit wet floors mainly and form a thick layer like a mat on forest floors and under shaded trees. 
  • To complete their life cycle, they require water as well. 
  • There is generation alternation between the gametophyte and the spores. 
  • The haploid gametes are found during the gametophyte generation.
  • A zygote is formed due to fertilisation, and a spore is developed after undergoing mitosis. 
  • You will find a stalk, foot, and capsule during the sporophyte generation. 
  • With spore maturation, the capsule lead opens as well. 

Primary Differences Between Mosses And Liverworts 

  • Liverworts come with dichotomously branched thallus and are dorsoventrally flattened. On the other hand, mosses have a somewhat similar structure to the stem, while the thallus is leafy, showing radial or even spiral symmetry. 
  • Marchantiophyta is related to liverworts, while Mosses fall under the division of Bryophyta, and one similarity would be that they both are non-vascular plants.
  • The leaf-like structure is found in liverworts which are flattened and come with two layers, while for mosses, you would find a whorl or spiral-like pattern.  
  • Some common examples of liverworts would be Riccia, Marchantia, and Porella, while mosses would be Polytrichum, sphagnum, and Funaria. 
  • Liverworts can either be thallose or foliose where the body is flattened and dorsiventral, while that of mosses would be foliose and is radially symmetrical. 
  • Liverworts with leaves do not have any midribs. White in mosses, you would find midribs if there are leaves present.
  • Liverworts’ rhizoids are unicellular, while that of mosses would be multicellular. 
  • You would find scales or even amphigastria in liverworts while sporogonium comes with few green tissues though, they can never synthesise their food. However, in mosses, no scales or amphigastria are found, and you would find several green tissues, and they can also synthesise their food. 
  • You would find elaters in Liverworts except in Riccia, while this is completely absent in mosses. 
  • The dorsal side of the thallus consists of the sex organs for liverworts, while the sex organs of the mosses are present at the apex of the gametophyte. 


There are some major similarities between liverworts and mosses, like both being non-flowering and both prefer growing in abundance in wet environments and terrestrial areas. In both, the gametophyte phase is always more dominating and prominent than the sporophyte one. 

Here you came to know in detail what liverworts and mosses are and their major differences. Though not similar to higher plants, they are equally important for the environment as many invertebrates and insects build their habitats there. They also assist in removing carbon dioxide and retaining and filtering water as well. 

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