Connecting Biodiversity Research & Collections with Curriculum

The first of two synergistic Biosynthesis meetings relating to the central theme of an integrative systematic study of the liverwort genus Frullania was held over two days on Sept. 29 and 30. The project includes novel elements to help accelerate the pace of scientific discovery and reduce the taxonomic impediment.

Science at FMNH : Ep. 1 - Early Land Plants

Liverworts, hornworts and mosses may not seem like much at first glance, but big things can come in small packages!  About 450 million years ago liverworts made the jump from water to land and completely altered the evolution of life on Earth.  They can be used to assess environmental pollution, and contain chemical compounds which show activity against certain cancer cell lines and HIV. 


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.

Botany Taxonomy

Presently, the Taxonomy module holds a complete classification for higher fungi and lichens (Ascomycota, Basidiomycota), liverworts (Marchantiphyta), and hornworts (Anthocerophyta), from genus up to division/phylum level, and a partial classification for mosses (Bryophyta), ferns and their relatives (Pteridophyta), and seed plants (Spermatophyta), up to family level.

A re-creation of a Pennsylvanian Coal Swamp, with surprisingly tall ferns, horsetails, and lycophytes that dominated tropical Carboniferous forests.

Focus: Fossil Plants

The Paleobotany Collection spans 3.8 billion years of history but has its major strengths in the Late Paleozoic and Cretaceous-Paleogene. Current research focuses on the evolution of fire systems in deep time, with emphasis on this phenomenon in coal-forming environments and its impact on Earth system processes, particularly fluctuations in atmospheric oxygen concentrations throughout the Phanerozoic.

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