The wider world of plants

What kinds of organisms do you see here? You might think that these are simply small flowering plants (angiosperms), but you’d be wrong. Most species of plants – about 250,000 out of 300,000 total – are flowering plants. But these are not!

You are seeing a mix of other organisms here. The dark and light green ones are bryophytes. Bryophytes include the mosses, and are non-vascular plants, which means they don’t have ‘true’ conductive tissues to help move water. Although some bryophytes can transport water to a limited degree, they are generally restricted to moist, low environments where large water demands don’t exist. Like on this rock, for example.

The other organism you see, in the lighter blue color, is a lichen. A lichen is actually not a plant at all, but instead a symbiosis of a fungus and either a cyanobacterium or a green alga. The structures they produce sometimes look like little leaves, but they are not! Lichens are generally adapted to life in harsh environments other organisms cannot use, and rely on resources that are too difficult for other organisms to extract. This lichen is very good at surviving dessication, and extracts some mineral resources from the rock it’s growing on.

Look close and a whole new world opens up!

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