Spores!

When you think of an organism that reproduces via spores, the first thing that pops into your head might be fungus. (Or maybe aliens. I don’t know how you people think.) However, a lot of plants – primarily mosses and ferns and their various relatives – also produce spores rather than flowers and seeds. This morning this tiny forest of moss spore capsules caught my eye.

Moss is a type of nonvascular plant, meaning it lacks the xylem and phloem (vascular tissue) that higher plants use to transport water and nutrients through their bodies. Some vascular plants are spore-bearing, too, however:

This is the underside of a fern frond, and the little tan dots you see are sporangia, where the spores are formed. And of course, we have another type of seedless vascular plant growing in our woods:

Club moss, a.k.a. “princess pine,” which is neither a moss nor a pine but a cousin of the ferns known as a lycopod. The cone-like structures at the top, where its spores are produced, are called the strobili (plural of strobilus), a word I learned in my intro botany class in college that I liked so much it’s stuck in my head ever since. (Unlike sporangia, for some reason, which I had to look up.) A month or so ago when they were fresher you could gently tap on the strobili and send drifts of powdery spores out into the air.

There are other types of spore-bearing plants, too, like liverworts and horsetails. Have you noticed any plants spreading their spores around in your area?

6 thoughts on “Spores!”

  1. Hahaha, loved the part about the aliens and “(I don’t know how you people think)”! That small bit of humour helped keep my interest, especially since I haven’t even thought about the biology of non-vascular plants since university. Thanks for reminding me that there are other things out in the woods than birds and mammals!

  2. “(Unlike sporangia, for some reason, which I had to look up.)” Know the feeling. Whilst studying for a lab test last week, on (surprise surprise) mosses, I was staring intently at the life cycle and the word “Bryophyta” floated into my brain. “Bryophyta…Bryophyta…what the hell is a Bryophyta?” :) I think I might have to start wrapping my head with aluminium foil to either keep the government’s secret radio waves out, or perhaps hold my brain in…oddly enough, I still passed the test.

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