Bryophytes of New York City

Bryophytes are a group of diminutive plants which consist of three distinct evolutionary lineages: liverworts, mosses, and hornworts. Like other plants, they make their own food from water and carbon dioxide via photosynthesis. But unlike other groups of plants, they lack complex vascular tissue and reproduce by spores, not seeds.

Bryophytes are ecologically important as pioneers of barren surfaces. They can absorb and retain many times their weight in water, and release it slowly into the environment where it can be used by other organisms. They contribute to nutrient cycling by trapping and absorbing minerals from water and air. They provide niches for other organisms, especially tiny invertebrates. Fallen logs first become encrusted with bryophytes and in time the moist, nutrient-rich carpet may become an incubator for fern spores and seeds of flowering plants.

The first catalog of New York State mosses was published in 1957 by Edwin Ketchledge and revised most recently in 1980 (Ketchledge, 1980). The first published checklist of the liverworts of New York was produced in 2015 by Bob Duncan and Nancy Slack (Duncan & Slack, 2015). It is estimated that there are nearly 650 bryophyte species in the state (Cleavitt, 2021). There has never been a complete catalog or inventory of the bryophytes of New York City.

Learn more about bryophyte diversity and our local bryophytes below!