Nature Profiles

Liverworts of Derbyshire


Lepidozia reptans


This common liverwort is a typical species of damp acidic woodland, especially on rotting logs.  It can easily be recognised by its bright green colour and pinnate branches with curved, lobed leaves. 

Like many liverworts, this species is much more abundant in the wetter west of Britain, and is relatively scarce in many areas of Derbyshire.

Hillbridge Wood NR



Calypogeia muelleriana


Hillbridge Wood NR

Although several Calypogeia species look similar, the acidic woodland habitat and rounded, entire leaf tips of this plant help identify the plant in these photos as C.muelleriana.  The underleaves of this species also have only a shallow notch and no extra lateral lobes - a useful feature to conclusively identify the plant. 

In all, six Calypogeia species are present in Derbyshire.




Cephalozia bicuspidata

Westend Valley, High Peak

This little liverwort can be found in most acidic habitats in Derbyshire, and is much more common than the other two widespread Cephalozia species (see below). 

The diagonally inserted 2-lobed leaves are a key diagnostic feature.




Cephalozia lunulifolia


Hillbridge Wood NR

Cephalozias are small, mat-forming liverworts which can be tricky to identify in the field; the plant in these two photos was confirmed by microscopical analysis. 

Key features of this species are its longitudinally-inserted leaves which often have a moon-shaped sinus (indentation) between the two lobes on each leaf.  Perianths are a good feature to look for as well - C.lunulifolia has untoothed female bracts. 

Only two other Cephalozia species are known from Derbyshire - the bog-dwelling C.connivens and the common C.bicuspidata (see above), which has diagonally inserted leaves.



Nowellia curvifolia

Hillbridge Wood NR

Perianths, Mill Dale

Wet, rotting logs are the characteristic habitat of this widespread liverwort.  Although common in western Britain, this attractive species is not especially common in Derbyshire.

N.curvifolia is the only European respresentative of a small genus, and can be recognised by its worm-like shoots and strongly concave leaves with two long pincer-like lobes.  The long, thin stems can completely cover rotting logs in woodland in favoured sites.  Another distinctive feature of the species is its crimson-red colour, although in deep shade red pigments can be completely absent.  The second photo shows a more typically coloured patch of plants. The first photo looks rather yellow as a result of the camera flash - the colour is actually a rich green, as seen in the photo below.

Hillbridge Wood NR



Odontoschisma denudatum

Hillbridge Wood NR

The most immediate distinguishing feature of this liverwort is the presence of abundant balls of yellow gemmae on the tips of the shoots.  Although some other liverworts have this feature, those species usually have toothed or nothced leaves (e.g. Barbilophozia attenuata - see below).  No British liverwort combines the features of yellow terminal balls of gemmae, rounded leaves and upright habit. 

O.denudatum is primarily a western, upland species, and is a very rare plant in the Peak District.  Hillbridge Wood is its only known site in Derbyshire, and even here it only occurs on a handful of logs and stumps.



Barbilophozia attenuata

Hillbridge Wood NR

The abundant gemmae-bearing shoots of this fairly common liverwort make it perhaps the easiest British Barbilophozia to identify. 

The Latin name comes from the tapered (attenuated) gemmae-bearing shoots.



Barbilophozia atlantica

Westend Valley, High Peak

Very similar to B.floerkii (below), this liverwort is fairly frequent on exposed acidic rock outcrops in the Peak District. 

Although variable in colour, from yellowish, to green to brownish, at least some stems in a colony will usually be seen to have red patches of gemmae at the the tips - a feature always absent from B.floerkii.




Barbilophozia floerkii

Ashop Clough, High Peak

The two consistent features of this liverwort are the three-lobed leaves (not obvious from this photo) and the lack of gemmae. 

Along with B.attenuata, this is the commonest Barbilophozia in Derbyshire, and in England as a whole.  It is found in acidic habitats, and is locally common in the Dark Peak on peaty rock ledges and rotting logs.



Barbilophozia barbata


Bar Brook, Eastern Moors

The rarest of Derbyshire's four Barbilophozias, this species favours slightly base-enriched habitats, rather than the strongly acidic habitats occupied by its cousins.  It is seldom abundant, even in favoured sites, with sparse patches occurring on one or two boulders, while adjacent ones have none of the species present. 

The easiest identification feature to see in the field is the way the young leaves at the tip of the shoots are pressed against each other, rather than spreading apart (as in other Barbilophozia species).  The leaves are clearly 3-lobed, making confusion with other small leafy liverworts unlikely.



Lophozia bicrenata

Tideswell Dale

A rare liverwort in Derbyshire, known from only two sites, L.bicrenata is a very small, close-leaved species, often noticeable by its orange-red gemmae which are borne abundantly at the shoot tips.  It grows on bare acidic soil.




Leiocolea alpestris

Monks Dale NNR

Despite its name, this small liverwort is by no means restricted to upland habitats.  It is a fairly frequent species of damp outcrops in limestone grassland in the White Peak, where it forms distinctive opaque pale green mats of scattered stems on bare soil. 

It can be distinguished from the more common L.turbinata by its larger size and broad-based leaves, as well as the lack of underleaves.



Leiocolea turbinata

Matlock Bath

Three Leiocolea species are found in the Peak District, and this is perhaps the commonest of the three. 

The best distinguishing feature of this lime-loving species is the narrow leaf base - unusual among British liverworts.




Gymnocolea inflata

Westend Valley, High Peak

This liverwort of acidic habitats is especially common in upland gritstone areas where it forms dark patches of short, sprawling stems.  These have distinctive inflated perianths (hence the Latin name), which are visible in the photo below.




Tritomaria quinquedentata


Coombs Dale SSSI

The most immediate feature of this fairly large liverwort is the way the leaves are split into three sharp lobes, with a long, curved back edge.  This asymmetric leaf shape is characteristic and distinguishes this species from otherwise similar Barbilophozia species. 

Although mainly an upland species reaching its British south-eastern limit in the Peak District, it is not uncommon in the region and can be seen at many sites in the White Peak in calcareous grassland.




Jungermannia pumila

Fernilee Reservoir

As its name suggests, this is a small liverwort, and easily overlooked.  It favours damp ground. 

Like many small Jungermannia species, fertile plants need to be located to help with identification.  J.pumila has a paroicous inflorescence (pairs of male bracts below a single pair of female ones) and lacks perigynia (sheaths surrounding the female inflorescence).  In the Peak District, at least, these features are conclusive. 

This primarily northern and western species is fairly widespread in the Peak District, which represents the south-eastern limit of its main range in Britain.  A smaller, disjunct range exists in Kent and Sussex.



Jungermannia exsertifolia ssp. cordifolia


One of the rarer Jungermannias in Derbyshire, this northern species is restricted to a few moorland streams in the Dark Peak.

The species is described in more detail in the Liverworts of Ben Lawers NNR section of the site.



Solenostoma sphaerocarpum


Westend Valley, Dark Peak

Although rather similar to S.gracillimum (below), this very small liverwort can be often be recognised by its liking for wet habitats, such as dripping rock ledges or emergent stones in and by upland streams. 

Unlike its close cousin (which favours drier, disturbed habitats) it is a paroicous species, with male and female parts on the same stem.  It also lacks the red-coloured perianth and strongly-bordered leaves of S.gracillimum, although a hand lens is essential for viewing these features. 

Both species are more or less equally common in northern Derbyshire.



Solenostoma gracillimum


Perianths, Ramsley Reservoir, Eastern Moors

In Derbyshire this diminutive liverwort of distrurbed, bare acidic soils is restricted to the moorland areas of the Peak District. 

The classic diagnostic feature for this species is the margin of enlarged cells along the leaf borders, but these can be hard to see, given the tiny (less than 1mm) width of the leaves - a x20 hand lens is essential.  Habitat also gives a good hint for identifying this species in the county. 

The second photo shows the striking red perianths, which can be very abundant in some colonies.



Jungermannia atrovirens

Mill Dale

This species is the only calcicolous Jungermannia in Derbyshire, where it forms small dark green stems on wet rock faces or damp grassy slopes. 

A key morphological feature is the dioicous inflorescence, with male and female plants being separate.  Other dioicous Jungermannias in Derbyshire are J.atrovirens, J.gracillima (see above) and J.hyalina, but these avoid calcareous habitats, as so are unlikely to cause confusion in the limestone dales where J.atrovirens is common.




Nardia scalaris


Westend Valley, High Peak

This liverwort is described in the Liverworts of Ben Lawers NNR section of the site.




Diplophyllum albicans


Another common liverwort in Derbyshire, this species is described in the Liverworts of Ben Lawers NNR section of the site.



Scapania compacta


Tideswell Dale

One of the rarer Scapanias in Derbyshire, this attractive and distinctive species is only abundant in Tideswell Dale, where it grows on an exposed basaltic outcrop.

The closely-pressed, equal-sized front and back leaf lobes give this liverwort a neat, symmetrical appearance.




Scapania undulata

Fertile plants with perianths, Ashop Clough

This common liverwort is widespread in Derbyshire. 

I've described the species in the Bryophytes of other areas of Scotland section of the site, but have included this photo as it shows the abundant perianths of a fertile specimen.



Scapania aspera


Coombs Dale SSSI

The most lime-loving lowland British Scapania, this species is common in the White Peak, where it sometimes grows luxuriantly in shaded woodland among limestone rubble and on crags.  In the limestone dales this is often the only Scapania present. 

When viewed closely, the front leaf lobe extends well across and runs slightly down the stem.  Where present, branches arise from the back of stem - a feature almost unique to this member of the genus.  The most similar species, S.aequiloba, is not found in Derbyshire. 

Thanks to Tom Blockeel for the identification.


Bar Brook, Eastern Moors



Scapania nemorea

Hillbridge Wood NR

This common woodland Scapania is described in the Bryophytes of Cumbria section of the site. 

Along with S.undulata (above), this is by far the commonest Scapania in acidic upland areas of Derbyshire.




Lophocolea bidentata

Hillbridge Wood NR

The commonest Lophocolea in the limestone dales of the Peak District, this woodland species can be recognised by its regularly and strongly toothed (two-pronged) leaves. 

It is an abundant liverwort of shaded, damp drystone wall communites and among rocks and tree roots on the woodland floor.  It can also be found on rotting logs in woodland (as in the second photo).




Pedinophyllum interruptum

Chee Dale SSSI

This plant is one of Derbyshire's rarest liverworts.  Its only English occurrence south of the Yorkshire Dales is in Chee Dale, where it grows on a single damp, wooded, limestone crag. 

It can be recognised by its prostrate shoots which taper towards the tip, its rounded leaves and the sparse appearance of the shoots due to the midline of the stems being free of leaves.




Plagiochila asplenioides

Chee Dale SSSI

Britain's second commonest Plagiochila is fairly easy to recognise, and often catches the eye as a distinctly large liverwort. 

It has rounded leaves like P.porelloides (below), but is nearly always larger, and is a pale green or yellowish-green colour, rather the dark green of its cousin.



Plagiochila porelloides

Coombs Dale SSSI

Resembling a miniature version of P.asplenioides, this is the commonest Plagiochila in limestone areas of the Peak District (although it also comonly grows in acidic areas), and the commonest member of the genus nationally. 

It can be recognised by its broadly rounded, unlobed leaves with toothed margins.  Fertile plants are rare in the Peak District.




Radula complanata


Sporophytes, Chee Dale SSSI

This rather greasy-looking liverwort forms compact, flat patches on trees, and more rarely on rocks. 

In the Peak District, identification is easy, as this is the only Radula found in this region (and the only species in most of England & Wales). 

The very similar R.lindenbergiana is a largely subalpine species, distinguished by its dioicous, rather than monoicous reproduction; the exact identity of non-fertile plants cannot be determined.




Ptilidium ciliare

High Edge

This distinctive liverwort is described in the Bryophytes of Cumbria section of the site.



Porella platyphylla


Coombs Dale SSSI

England's commonest Porella is a very common sight in the limestone dales of the Peak District, where it grows as scrambling patches on limestone crags and on many drystone walls. 

It can be recognised by its upturned leaf margins and large size.




Porella cordaeana

Chee Dale SSSI

Rarer than P.platyphylla, this species is rather similar but has more widely-spaced underleaves which barely overlap.  Some forms are very similar, however, and more subtle features, such as habitat (P.cordaeana almost always grows in shaded, moist sites) and the twisted lobule tips of P.cordaeana will help to determine the plant's identity.



Porella arboris-vitae

Matlock Bath


Much the rarest of Derbyshire's three Porella species, this plant is characteristic of humid, wooded calcareous ravines. 

It has a very glossy appearance and closely appressed leaves which curl downwards when dry (as in this photo).  An unusual, but reliable, test in the field is to taste a tiny stem tip - this is the only British Porella to have an acrid, spicy taste, not unlike raw chilli!



Frullania tamarisci

Coombs Dale SSSI

Cressbrook Dale NNR

Less common in Derbyshire than F.dilatata (below), this liverwort grows as reddish-brown bushy patches in limestone grassland in the Peak District, rather than as an epiphyte (in western Britain F.tamarisci is a common and often abundant epiphyte). 

When viewed closely, the leaf lobes are pointed, whereas F.dilatata has rounded leaf lobes.

Coombs Dale SSSI

Cressbrook Dale NNR



Frullania dilatata

Hillbridge Wood NR

The second of the Peak District's Frullania species, this is also the most widespread member of the genus in Britain. 

F.dilatata has rounded, broad leaf lobules. 

In the Peak District, as in most of Britain, this is an exclusively epiphytic species.



Marchesinia mackaii


Matlock Bath

A very distinctive liverwort of humid habitats on calcareous rocks in western Britain, this species is very rare in Derbyshire, where it is on the eastern edge of its British distribution. 

It grows on a few shaded, sheer limestone rock faces in ash woodland in Matlock Bath, as well as a limited number of other sites. 

M.mackaii can be easily recognised by its very flat appearance and almost black stems, although new growth is pale green, as shown here.





Lejeunea cavifolia

Chee Dale SSSI

The two common British Lejeunea species are both found in the Peak District and look similar.

L.cavifolia has closely overlapping leaves and large underleaves (unlike L.lamacerina below).  This isn't always easy to see in some specimens, so microscopical analysis is the most reliable way to separate species - the cells of the leaf apex and far more abundant and persistent cellular oil bodies being distinctive for L. cavifolia.



Lejeunea lamacerina

Hillbridge Wood NR

Small, distant underleaves are a characteristic feaure of L.lamacerina, the second most common Lejeunea species in Britain.

Unlike L.cavifolia (above) it is largely saxicolous (rock-dwelling), and only rarely grows on trees. 

Both species are found in shady woodland, although L.lamacerina tends to be found in wet, rather than merely humid habitats.



Colura calyptrifolia

Fernilee Reservoir

This tiny, odd-looking liverwort is instantly recognisable by its inflated leaves, looking like little pale green balloons with long 'beaks'.  Its small size means it is easily overlooked, as it also grows in very small patches, which, in the Peak District at least, can be very widely spaced, perhaps even limited to one or two patches on a single tree in an entire site. 

C.calyptrifolia is a characteristic species on the humid north and west of our country, and the few recorded occurrences in the western Peak District mark the species' south-eastern limit in Britain.  In the Peak District it is a rare, epiphytic species, often on willow, but firther west it also grows on rock faces. 

I apologise for the poor photo, but this is a very tricky little liverwort to photograph!



Cololejeunea rossettiana

Matlock Bath

All three British Cololejeunea species can be found in the Peak District.  They are tiny liverworts with stems barely half a millimetre wide in some cases, and hence need close examination to determine which species is present. 

C. rossettiana is the least common of the three species, and is very similar to C. calcarea.  Both grow on shaded limestone and need microscopical analysis of the abaxial leaf lobule surfaces - these are smooth in C. calcarea and spiny in C. rossettiana.  The perianths and bracts are also different in the two species.



Cololejeunea calcarea

Monks Dale NNR

Peter Dale, the northern extension of Monks Dale, holds probably the largest Derbyshire population of this uncommon liverwort, where it grows on vertical shaded limestone outcrops.

See the description of C. rossettiana above for features of the two species.




Fossombronia wondraczekii

Fernilee Reservoir

One of several very similar Fossombronia species, the exact identity of which can only reliably be determined by examination of the spores, this liverwort inhabits bare reservoir margins and other ephemeral, winter-wet habitats. 

As a genus, Fossombronias are easily recognised by their resemblance to tiny lettuces (in my opinion). 

Four species are found in the Peak District, although only this species and F.pusilla are widespread.



Pellia endiviifolia


Conies Dale

In autumn, the adundant small fertile branches at the ends of the thalli make this common liverwort easy to indentify. 

It is a base-rich habitat species, growing in wet areas such as rock faces, by streams and on the floor of quarries (as here). 

The two other British Pellia species are absent from base-rich habitats.

Coombs Dale SSSI



Pellia neesiana


The least common of Britain's three Pellia species, P.neesiana is very similar to P.epiphylla, and examination of female plants is necessary to determine which species is present (P.epiphylla is also monoicous).

P.neesiana is much less common than the other two species in Derbyshire, and is almost entirely restricted to the Dark Peak.



Aneura pinguis

Patch with developing sporophytes, Coombs Dale SSSI

This characteristically greasy-looking bright green liverwort is common across the British Isles in damp or wet habitats. 

It forms creeping mats, always sparsely branched, unlike some other similar thallose liverworts such as Pellia sp.



Riccardia multifida

Westend Valley, High Peak

The commonest of Derbyshire's three Riccardias, this species is most frequent in the Peak District, with few records from the south of the county. 

It favours wet habitats (the colony photographed here was growing on a flushed, gently sloping hillside).  This species and the fairly common R.chamaedryfolia are very similar, and microscopical examination of the cell oil bodies is necessary to be absolutely certain of the plant's identity.



Metzgeria fruticulosa

Chee Dale SSSI

Formerly known as M.violacea, this is the second most common member of the genus in Britain, and is an exclusively epiphytic species. 

Although very similar to M.temperata (below), it can be readily distinguished when fertile by the location of the gemmae at the tips of the branches only, rather than along the margins.

Coombs Dale SSSI



Metzgeria temperata

Coombs Dale SSSI

This second member of the M.fruticulosa / M.temperata species pair is less common in Derbyshire than its close cousin. 

Its distinctive characteristic of gemmae along the thallus margins can be seen clearly in the top half of this photo especially. 

Like M.fruticulosa, this species is epiphytic.



Metzgeria furcata

Hillbridge Wood NR

By far Derbyshire's (and Britain's) commonest and most widespread Metzgeria species, this epiphyte can be recognised by the absence of modified gemmae-bearing branches (which both species above possess) - this species is only rarely fertile, and usually seen as a patches of short round-ended thalli which have very prominent midribs.




Apometzgeria pubescens

Chee Dale SSSI

As its Latin name suggests, this Metzgeria is hairy, a feature easily seen with a hand lens.  No other Metzgeria shares this feature, making this species unmistakeable. 

By and large a northern species, A.pubescens reaches it southern English limit in the Peak District, where it can be found fairly regularly in calcareous woodland.



Targionia hypophylla

Coombs Dale SSSI

Mill Dale

This scarce liverwort is one of the specialities of selected sites in the Peak District. 

In Coombs Dale it grows on exposed south-facing steep limestone rock faces which are very dry in the summer. 

This species superficially resembles R.hemisphaerica (in my opinion), but is generally a darker, non-glaucous, green and has a more parallel-sided thallus.  The best feature for distinguishing the two plants is to see them when fertile though - T.hypophylla bears its reproductive receptacles on the underside of the thalli, which are distinctively black.  When dry, the thalli of this species roll up along their length, and the plant looks like a group of black worm-like tubes - a feature which no other British liverwort shares.



Mill Dale



Conocephalum conicum


A large and impressive thallose liverwort when growing well (as here), C.conicum is easily recognise by its size and bright green colour.  It avoids acidic sites, and is most common in permanently damp or flushed neutral to mildly base-rich habitats.





Reboulia hemisphaerica

High Edge

The purplish margins and glaucous green surface of the thalli help identify this livewort.  It is restricted to base-rich habitats, and is reasonably frequent in limestone areas of Derbyshire. 

The Latin name of this species derives from the shape of the female reproductive organs, which are borne on short stalks.


Mill Dale



Preissia quadrata

Conies Dale

This attractively-coloured thallose liverwort is a classic indicator of base-enriched sites.  In Derbyshire, it always grows in permanently wet habitats, and is easily recognised by its glaucous thalli with a reticulate surface caused by numerous air-pores. 

R.hemisphaerica also grows in similar habitats in Derbyshire (although it favours drier sites), and has purple-tinged thallus margins, but the surface of its thalli are smooth and lack the reticulate pattern.



Riccia sorocarpa

Mill Dale

This common Riccia forms rather scruffy, irregular rosettes and can has distinctively squat-looking thalli, unlike the elongated ones of R.subbifurca (below). 

The median groove of this species is a sharp, narrow V-shape - a useful identification feature when combined with the glaucous grey-green colour and thallus proportions.

Coombs Dale SSSI



Riccia subbifurca

Fernilee Reservoir

This liverwort is very rare in Derbyshire, and less conspicuous than the much more common R.sorocarpa

The thalli are long and thin, pale yellowish-green and have a shallow, flat-bottomed median groove (unlike the sharper groove of some other species). 

In favoured sites, the tiny rosettes of this species can cover large areas of bare soil.  When these plants were photographed, there were literally hundreds, if not thousands of individuals along the reservoir margin.