Mosses and Liverworts
Mosses and liverworts occur in a variety of habitats throughout Shenandoah National Park. These non-vascular plants (bryophytes) lack well developed water conducting tissue and tend to be most abundant in moist areas, such as the splash zones of a waterfalls, or in the higher elevation forests that are frequently enveloped in fog.
Mosses and liverworts contain photosynthetic pigments and, like more advanced plants, produce their own food from sunlight. Mosses typically have small leaves arranged in a whorl around a short stem. Liverworts are closely related to mosses, but can usually be recognized by their larger flattened leaves that grow in two rows.
The park supports approximately 208 species of moss and 58 species of liverwort. These plants can grow on many different substrates including soil, rocks, and bark in a variety of environmental conditions. Some examples from Shenandoah include white cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum) on nutrient poor acidic soil, haircap moss (Polytrichum commune) on moist ground, and sphagnum moss (Sphagnum spp.) in the Big Meadows swamp.
Useful references on mosses and liverworts are:
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Did You Know?
From 1933 to 1942 an estimated 10,000 boys and young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps planted hundreds of thousands of trees, shrubs, and native plants in Shenandoah National Park. Many of these were grown in three CCC plant nurseries from seeds collected within the park. More...