Nearly 50 people are attending this year’s John Child Bryophyte and Lichen Workshop in Ohakune. Bryophytes include mosses and liverworts.
The Workshop is a focussed opportunity to study these small plants. Although usually overlooked, they actually make a huge contribution to forest biomass and functioning.
Mosses and liverworts reproduce by spores, as do ferns. Spores are also part of the life cycle of seed plants (including conifers and flowering plants), but they also produce a more specialised structure that we’re also more familiar with – their seeds. Bryophytes, liverworts, ferns, and lichens all do not produce seeds.
In mosses, the spores are made in a capsule that is usually held on a thin, wiry stalk.
In liverworts, the spores are made in a capsule that is usually held on a thicker, fleshy stalk.
Lichens are also part of the Workshop’s scope. Lichens are actually two (or more) organisms living together: a fungus, providing ‘shelter’; and a photosynthetic partner (an alga or a photosynthetic bacterium), providing ‘food’ by harvesting sunlight.
Three of Te Papa’s botanists (plant scientists) are attending the Workshop. The Workshop allows us to share and extend our knowledge, and grow Te Papa’s botanical collections.
Before the Workshop in Ohakune, a small group including Te Papa’s team collected mosses, liverworts, lichens, and ferns from along the Forgotten Highway (State Highway 43) between Stratford and Taumarunui.