Marchantia polymorpha


Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods



  • Marchantia, from the Latin
  • polymorpha, from the Greek, polus, "many", morphê, "shape, form"; hence, "multiform" or "irregular".
  • Common Name, from
  • Also known as Harilik helvik (Est)


  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Hepatophyta, the Liverworts
      • Class Hepaticae, the Liverworts
        • Subclass Marchantiae, the Liverworts
          • Order Marchantiales, the Liverworts
            • Family Marchantiaceae, the Liverworts
              • Genus Marchantia, the Liverworts
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 15587
  • Also known as Marchantia aquatica



  • Form flat, branching; thallus generally 0.8"-4" long and 3/8"-3/4" broad.
  • Thalli dichotomously branched and exhibit apical growth.
  • Numerous rhizoids attach the gametophyte (thallus) to the soil. Smooth rhizoids penetrate the soil, while tuberculate rhizoids run horizontally along the surface of the plant.
  • Dioecious


  • The most widely distributed hepatic in the world. It is a cosmopolitan species that occurs from tropical to arctic regions.


  • Cliffs, closed forests, alpine heathlands, peat bogs, minerotropic fens, springs, swamps, grasslands, and tundra.
  • Most often found on moist or wet mineral soil, especially in recently burned areas. Grows best in subcalcareous soil conditions (pH 6.0) under full sunlight.
  • Mats can interfere with the establishment of seedlings of other vegetation. Invasion and formation of mats after fire helps to prevent soil erosion. Revegetates areas where mineral soil has been exposed. Colonies aid in the renewal of the humus and prepare the soil for the establishment of other vegetation.


  • Rapidly invades burned areas by light, wind-borne spores. Exposed mineral soil and high lime concentrations present after a severe fire provide favorable conditions for establishment.
  • An initial or early invader of burned sites, it exhibits dramatic growth following fire and in some cases attains 100% cover. Dominates the early moss/herb stage after a fire but does not persist through subsequent stages of succession.





  • Has two alternate forms in its life cycle: a gametophytic stage and a sporophytic stage. The gametophyte propagates itself vegetatively and also produces the gametes which give rise to the sporophyte.
  • In sexual reproduction, antheridia and archegonia develop on separate plant bodies and are borne on stalked antheridiophores and archegoniophores, respectively. Fertilization takes place prior to elongation of the stalk, and a sporophyte is formed. Spores with hygroscopic elaters (slender threads that twist and coil as they dry and propel spores into the air) subsequently develop and are released. As many as 7 million spores may be formed on each plant.
  • Vegetative reproduction may occur as a result of fragmentation or gemma cup production. In fragmentation, new plants are formed when older plant parts die at the fork of a branch of a thallus. The two branches then become separate individuals. Gametophytes produce propagative structures called gemma cups. Each gemma gives rise to numerous gemmae that are released when the cup fills with water. Gemmae that are transported to favorable sites form a pair of young plants.
  • Gametophores appear and archegonia are ready for fertilization in early to late May. Sporogonia mature and spores are released in July.




Boreal border

Last updated on 11 October 1999