Liverworts, mosses, and hornworts - technically referred to as bryophytes - are considered to be a pivotal group in our understanding of the origin of land plants because they are believed to be among the earliest diverging lineages. Bryophytes are ecologically significant, contributing to nutrient cycles, forming a major component of forest canopy humus, and are effective rainfall interceptors that add to hill stability and help to prevent soil erosion. Many bryophytes also have chemical constituents that show important biological activities such as anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and muscle relaxing activity.
The Field Museum holds approximately 250,000 unaccessioned and accessioned bryophyte specimens. At present, more than 45,000 searchable records are available. The majority of these records represent accessioned specimens from New Zealand, North America, and South America, including collections from J. J. Engel, M. Lewis, M. S. Taylor and R. M. Schuster. Records also include voucher specimens as part of the NSF-funded Assembling the Liverwort Tree of Life project (LiToL).
Databasing efforts of the bryophyte collection are ongoing, including the digitization of specimen labels and data entry of core fields (taxon, country, latitude/longitude, date collected, collector, and collection number).
For information about the collections and their background, visit the descriptions of the bryophyte collections of the Field Museum.