Mosses, hornworts and liverworts form a group of simple plants called bryophytes. Bryophytes lack many of the more complex structures of the higher plants, such as a vascular system, and flowers. They do not have roots, instead they have structures called 'rhizoids' which absorb water and anchor the plant to the substrate. All bryophytes have an interesting life cycle consisting of two main parts, called the gametophyte and sporophyte generations. Plants that are in the gametophyte stage can reproduce sexually. Male organs (antheridia) produce sex cells, which move to the female organs (archegonia). Fertilisation occurs and a 'sporophyte' develops, this structure remains attached to the plant. The sporophyte releases spores, which disperse and develop into a new plant (5).
The presence of sporophytes in silky-swan-neck moss has not been confirmed (3). Rather than spreading by means of spores, this species undergoes vegetative reproduction; fragments of leaves that break off from the plant develop into new plants (2).
In Britain, this species occurs in north-west Wales, the Lake District, and western Scotland (3). It is also found in Ireland, and north-western Spain, but the Spanish moss has smaller leaves, and may be a different species (3).
Silky swan-neck moss is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) priority species, and a Species Action Plan has been published in order to outline the targets for its conservation (3). This plan aims to maintain the current range of this moss. At present, a number of the sites supporting this species are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), others are managed as National Nature Reserves (NNRS), they therefore receive a degree of protection (3).
Nutrient enrichment of aquatic or terrestrial ecosystems.
A life cycle stage in plants, which has one set of chromosomes (threads of DNA protein) in the cell nucleus (a condition known as 'haploid'), which arises from a spore (which is also haploid). Sex cells (gametes) are produced during the gametophyte stage. This is the dominant life-cycle stage in liverworts and mosses.
Thread-like structures that help to anchor the plant to the substrate, and absorb minerals and water. In liverworts they consist of a single cell, in mosses they are multi-cellular.
Microscopic particles involved in both dispersal and reproduction. They comprise a single or group of unspecialised cells and do not contain an embryo, as do seeds.
The stage of a plant life cycle that produces spores (microscopic particles used in dispersal and reproduction). This stage is diploid (in the cell nucleus there are two sets of chromosomes - threads of DNA protein) and is dominant in 'higher' plants such as flowering plants.
In plants, the system that allows water and nutrients to move around.
Type of asexual reproduction (reproduction without recombination of genetic material) that results in the propagation of plants using only the vegetative tissues such as leaves or stems. The resulting plant is genetically identical to the original plant. A well-known example of this is the reproduction of strawberry plants from 'runners'.
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