Meet a Tiny Wonder of the Forest

Lunularia cruciata
Lunularia cruciata

I’m pleased to introduce you to this tiny cutie of the redwood forest: Lunularia cruciata! I can guarantee that you’ve been in this tiny plant’s presence in the redwood forest, but maybe just didn’t notice it. Lunularia is a liverwort, one of the world’s small plants. A relative of mosses, this plant hugs the ground as it grows horizontally on moist soil. Lunularia is a recent newcomer to the redwoods and we wonder how far it will spread through the redwood forest range.

This liverwort gets its name from the moon-shaped cups on the top of the plant (Lunularia for “luna” or “moon”). These small cups (called “gemmae” for those of you who want to nerd out), contain baby liverworts that get bounced out by raindrops and ricocheted to a new patch of ground to hopefully start growing. This is clonal reproduction, meaning sexless (yes, I feel sorry for them too), and allows the same genetically unique plant to spread through the forest by raindrops. I think movement by raindrops is SUPER cool.

Look for those liverworts next time you are poking around the woods—they might just be underfoot.

About the author

Emily Burns, the League’s former Director of Science, led the research program that includes the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative. She holds a PhD in Integrative Biology on the impacts of fog on coast redwood forest flora from the University of California, Berkeley.

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