Lophocolea heterophylla

HomeLearningSpecies FinderLophocolea heterophylla

Identification notes

A plant of rotten logs principally, but also found on soil and general woodland floor litter, this leafy liverwort looks a lot like its congener L. bidentata. The lower leaves are bilobed in the same way, but towards the tip of the stem the lobes fizzle out somewhat and the upper leaves are often completely unlobed, or with only a suggestion of a notch. The underleaves are similar to those of L. bidentata ie bilobed, with each lobe bearing a side tooth, but the lobes don’t spread out as widely in our species, usually only about as wide as the stem. Our plant shares the evocative smell of L. bidentata, redolent of a good day’s mossing in a nice woodland.

Confusion is possible with the rarer, but increasing, L.semiteres, which can also form patches on rotten logs. In fact, what can often catch the eye is a plant with the appearance of L. heterophylla, but really ‘going for it’ as a verdant, extensive patch. The lower leaves of this species are very rarely as bilobed as those of L. heterophylla, it is only weakly aromatic and the underleaves are sometimes fused on one side with the adjacent leaf lobe if you hunt around. It is also dioicous, ie with separate male and female plants, whereas L. heterophylla has the male inflorescences just below the perianths. Chiloscyphus species have leaves which are at most slightly indented. They are not aromatic and the underleaves, while similar in form to those of L. heterophylla, have the lobes aligned straight up the stem and are not divergent.

A few points need mentioning. Firstly, this plant often bears gemmae on the leaves and bracts (unlike in L. bidentata), which might seem a bit racy for such a familiar plant, but don’t be alarmed. They are not that unusual and suggestions of L. minor which occurs on the continent have been unfounded so far in Britain. Secondly, botanists from the south of Britain must restrain themselves when north of the border, as this plant, so common down south, is surprisingly rare in Scotland – always double-check your identification if you think you have it. Finally, when you sniff out this species on a nicely rotted log, take a second look for nearby Sematophyllum substrumulosum, especially in conifer plantations. Learning that the presence of one species can alert you to another is one of the great pleasures of knowledge of the countryside.

Read the Field Guide account

Distribution in Great Britain and Ireland

View distribution from the BBS Atlas 2014

Similar Species