Not sure if it's a lichen or a moss? What on earth is the difference between a liverwort and a hornwort anyhow?
Let's have a brief look at each!MOSS
Moss is the oldest terrestrial (on land) plant on earth! Mosses do not draw nutrients up from the soil the way that vascular plants do, and thus can live on rock... so, it was moss that started making soil for the first time on earth. In this way, we have MOSS to thank for all of the life on land that we currently enjoy!
There are over 12,500 species of moss identified today, though many of them can only be told apart by an expert with a microscope.
It is understood that moss collectively 'consumes' more carbon out of our atmosphere than all of the trees in the world.
Moss does not have roots, flowers, seeds, or pollen. It reproduces either via parts broken off, or spores, which it releases from special capsules.
All mosses are either Acrocarpous or Pleurocarpous; Acrocarpous have an upright habit and Pleurocarpous have a creeping habit.
Some "moss" is actually a lichen! This includes "Spanish Moss" and "Reindeer Moss". Both of these are in fact lichens and aren't even closely related to moss.LIVERWORTS AND HORNWORTS
Superficially similar, these non-vascular plants have a few differences. Most hornworts trap sunlight with only one or two massive chloroplasts in each of their cells (liverworts have dozens). Their chloroplasts can store carbon dioxide (liverworts cannot). Hornworts also shed spores for long periods of time, whereas Liverworts shed spores quickly.
Liverworts, Hornworts, and Mosses are similar, but Liverworts/Hornworts have lobed leaves, have an almost leather-like appearance, and lack the 'vein' down the center of each 'leaf' that mosses have. They also must have moisture to grow whereas mosses are actually drought tolerant. It is though that mosses evolved from Liverworts. It is thought that most land plants evolved from Liverworts.
Until recently, mosses and liverworts were thought to be very closely related. Recent research on DNA, however, has shown that these plants may not be closely related at all.ALGAE
Though usually just thought of as a scourge for those that keep aquariums, swimming pools, and water features, algae is actually quite diverse, interesting, and important!! For this group we will focus mainly on multicellular 'macro'algae, as it's much nicer to get photos of.
It is currently thought that Liverworts evolved from algaes, and thus all plant life that we know today has a common ancestor of algae!
There are over 8,000 known species of algae.
Seaweed is actually algae! Nori, kelp, wakame, sea lettuce, Irish "moss".... all algaes!
Algae is extremely important to life-- it absorbs massive amounts of CO2, pollutants, etc and it is food for countless animals.LICHENS
Lichens are not actually a plant at all... lichens are COMPOSITE organisms. That means that lichens are two life forms living together in symbiosis (harmony). Lichens are comprised of a fungus and a photosynthetic partner (either algae or cyanobacteria). Even though they are both of these organisms, the lichen is much different than either the fungus or algae by itself.
Lichens grow nearly everywhere on earth, in some of the most extreme climates!
They can also live quite a long time. Lichens often grow very slowly, and some grow less than one millimeter per year! It is not uncommon for lichens to live for CENTURIES... in fact, an arctic specimen of a crustose lichen is over 9,000 years old. Think about that next time you kick one off of a rock!
Lichens often look dead, but they are most likely alive.
Because lichens can grow on bare rock, they are often the genesis of soil in remote locations where plants cannot live.
Lichens are not parasitic-- they do not have roots and draw no nutrition from what they grow on. They absorb all of their nutrition from air, moisture, and photosynthesis. They do not harm plants or trees that they grow on and in fact often benefit trees.