Questions? AskAuckland

NZ Plants

Liverworts and Hornworts

Liverwort phylum: Hepatophyta and Hornwort phylum: Anthocerophyta

The Liverworts



There are two main groups of liverworts: leafy and thalloid.
New Zealand has an unusually rich liverwort flora: over 10% of the world's 6,500 - 7,000 described species of liverworts are native here.  Worldwide there are twice as many moss species as liverwort species but in New Zealand the number of liverwort species about equals that of the mosses. It is of further interest that many native liverworts also attain a great size. 


The hornworts are a small phylum of about 100 species worldwide with about 13 species in New Zealand of which six are endemic (found nowhere else)

Recognizing a liverwort:

  • The leaves of leafy forms lack a midrib and often have lobes, flaps or pockets.
  • The leaves of leafy forms usually have two rows of equal-sized leaves and a third row of smaller leaves on the lower surface
  • Thalloid liverworts form a flat growth (thallus) on the substrate. Some have pores.
  • Liverworts are attached to the substrate with single-celled filaments (rhizoids)
  • The sporophyte consisting of a stalk (seta) and capsule, is very delicate, short-lived and often greatly reduced in size
  • The capsule opens by splitting into segments.

Recognizing a hornwort:

  • Hornworts superficially resemble thallus type liverworts
  • Rhizoids are unicellular
  • A distinctive elongate (horn-like) capsule is formed with a prolonged period of growth
  • The capsule opens by splitting from its tip to its base
  • Stomata are present in the sporophyte


Early liverworts and hornworts