LIVER PLANTS: what are they, characteristics, types and examples

Help the development of the site, sharing the article with friends!

If you've ever read about non-vascular plants, you probably know, or at least are familiar with, liver plants. They are much less numerous and popular bryophyte plants than mosses, which are much more colorful and easy to see. However, these small and primitive plants deserve their share of recognition.

If you want to learn more about this interesting botanical topic, join us in this Green Ecologist article in which we talk in detail about what are liver plants, their characteristics, types and examples.

What are liver plants - definition

As we have just said, the first thing to mention about liverworts is that they belong to the class of bryophyte plants, being non-vascular plants, that is, without a vascular system that is responsible for the transport and conduction of nutrients and substances internally.

They are also called Hepaticophytas, Marchantiophytas or Hepaticae, although the usual thing is to call them simply hepatic. They get their name from the resemblance that some of these small plants bear with the kidney, which is why they were used in the Middle Ages to treat ailments of this organ.

We recommend that you consult this other post on Bryophyte Plants: examples and characteristics if you want more information on this topic.

Characteristics of liver plants

These are the main characteristics of liver plants:

  • Liverworts are small plants, with heights of no more than 10 cm and that they rarely reach 20 mm in thickness.
  • Its life cycle alternates haploid and diploid generations, the diploid generation being of great importance, but very short life.
  • Most of them need very humid environments and in the shade, as generally occurs in bryophytes, although there are some species of liverworts capable of resisting direct sunlight and long-lasting droughts.
  • Among the most notable characteristics of the parts of liver plants, we find the fact that their rhizoids, the structures with which they are attached to surfaces, are made up of a single cell.
  • In addition, sporophytes of liverworts, which are responsible for creating spores, are not capable of photosynthesis, being their only use to continue the reproductive and life cycle of the plant.
  • For the rest, they are formed by the rhizoid, already mentioned, and by filidios and caudilios, the latter called thalli in their specific case.
  • The reproduction of liver plants consists of a sexual stage and an asexual stage. In the sexual part, the plant produces archegonia and antheridia, its female and male sexual organs, when it is in optimal environmental conditions. The antheridium releases anterozoids, which fertilize the egg cells in the archegonia. From here, the asexual stage begins, in which the sporophyte arises, which feeds on the gametophyte. This rises above the gametophyte, releasing and dispersing the spores. We recommend you take a look at this other article on Plant Reproduction.

Types of liver plants

There are two big types of liver plants, the foliose and the taloses:

Folious liver plants

They are the most common of all: a good part of them are part of this type. Their main defining characteristic is that they have a thallus that acts as the axis for the filidia, foliose-type structures. The most common and well-known group is that of the Jungermanniales. The characteristic liver shape of many foliose is the reason for the name liverworts that the whole genus receives.

Talose liver plants

They do not develop false leaves or foliose structure. They grow in a ribbon-like structure in a flat shape, which may or may not branch out. Simple and complex talose are distinguished among them.

At first glance, many liverworts are so similar to mosses or hornworts that microscopic observation or great experience is required to be able to distinguish them.

Examples of liver plants - names and characteristics

Here are some names of liver plants so that it is easier for you not only to find specific information about them, but also to facilitate their recognition.


It belongs to the Marchantiaceae family, whose most notable characteristic is its intense green color. Some specimens of this species can reach up to 30 cm. They usually grow in mountainous regions and use a rock to anchor themselves and thus achieve a greater reserve of moisture.


From the Jubulaceae family, it is also characterized by its green color and its irregular branches. It usually grows at the base of trees or other plants in the process of decomposition. Always look for an area with a great contribution of nutrients and humidity because it is not a very vulnerable species.


Lunalaria, of the Lunulariaceae family, is a medium-sized and very resistant species. So much so that it can grow on apparently complicated surfaces such as ravines or occur in flat areas, yes, always close to the constant presence of water. It is also characterized by having an almost translucent green pigment, which makes it easy to identify.


Finally, the lejeuna of the Lejeuneaceae family, has an intense green color and is smaller in size than the other species in the previous example. This usually grows on the surface of the leaves or on the bark of trees. It prefers areas with good light and airy, even so it is quite resistant to humidity.

If you want to read more articles similar to Liver plants: what are they, characteristics, types and examples, we recommend that you enter our Biology category.

You will help the development of the site, sharing the page with your friends
This page in other languages: