Mosses & Club Mosses
They are called mosses and club mosses, but don’t let their common names fool you: Bryophytes and Lycophytes are two very different groups of plants.
Bryophytes are mosses, hornworts, and liverworts, which are all non-vascular plants. This means that unlike other plants, they don’t have a vascular system carrying water and nutrients through their tissues. Their cells absorb water and nutrients directly from their environment, so they can’t be very big or tall. Most bryophytes like humid environments, where all of their cells can get plenty of moisture from both the air and the soil.
Lycophytes were once some of the most abundant plants on Earth, around 300 million years ago, during the Carboniferous period. Nowadays, they are represented by a handful of species known as clubmosses, firmosses, and quillworts.
They look a lot like mosses, but they are actually vascular plants, capable of pulling water and nutrients from the soil and transporting it to their tissues. Since they have a vascular system, they can get larger than real mosses. Indeed, fossil evidence shows that back in the Carboniferous, there were entire forests of tree-like lycophytes.
View examples of this plant family in the gallery below, or go to the Bryophytes + Lycophytes' families listings at the bottom of the page to access our database of specific plants.