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SCENTED LIVERWORT

SNAKE LIVERWORT [USA]

Conocephalum conicum

Liverworts Family [Conocephalaceae]

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5th Aug 2011, Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Growing in a dark damp nook on limestone rocks in one of the entrances to this man-made cave, 'mined' from underneath for its limestone rocks (an upside-down quarry). (Hartstongue Fern growing in top corner for size comparison).


5th Aug 2011, Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
One of the largest liverworts, with thalli ('leaves') up to 17mm wide and often forms extensive mats. (Hartstongue Fern growing in top corner for size comparison).


5th Aug 2011, Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Conspicuous thalli, much longer than broad, flat, leathery and dark green.


5th Aug 2011, Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Thalli bifurcate (branch into two) at various intervals and have conspicuous 'pores' that make it look like a tongue or the skin of a snake. Older thalli tend to turn a muddy purple (top). The liverwort smells strongly aromatic, hence the common name.


5th Aug 2011, Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Here growing with Hart's-Tongue Thyme-Moss.


5th Aug 2011, Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The air pores are surrounded by a (mainly) hexagonal network of darker lines. Despite this, the surface feels smooth lacking texture.


25th April 2015, Dibbinsdale, Bromborough, Wirral. Photo: © RWD
New growth overlaying older growth. Some of the samples from Dibbinsdale are wet or moist, so it is not possible to tell if they are naturally shiny or matte.


25th April 2015, Dibbinsdale, Bromborough, Wirral. Photo: © RWD
Newer leaves are not as long or as bifurcated as the older specimens beneath.


25th April 2015, Dibbinsdale, Bromborough, Wirral. Photo: © RWD
The raised pimples are pores which let air in.


25th April 2015, Dibbinsdale, Bromborough, Wirral. Photo: © RWD
It is said that when the over-lapping 'cells' with dark borders (actually air chambers) are more visible than the pores then this is an indication that it is the species salebresum. But whether the above is salebresium is open to question. The two species of Liverworts are said to often grow together, just to further complicate ID.


25th April 2015, Dibbinsdale, Bromborough, Wirral. Photo: © RWD
The black dots atop the pores may be open pores?


25th April 2015, Dibbinsdale, Bromborough, Wirral. Photo: © RWD
The rear of the leaf, with brown scales, and bifurcating backbones, which is presumably how the leaf will begin to bifurcate as seen from the upper surface.


Easily mistaken for : Conocephalum salebrosum and was in the recent past until in 2005 it was realised that there are two different species. [A third species, Conocephalum supradecompositum, if it exists, may not grow in the UK]. The differences between C. conicum and C. salebrosum are that conicum is somewhat larger, and is shiny rather than matte when dry (it is impossible to differentiate when wet), the borders between air pores are less conspicuous, and that the surface is smooth (rather than undulating where the 'valleys' between the pores are). C. salebrosum prefers slightly drier conditions than C. conicum. The British Bryological Society (BBS) list the differences on this page of their website.

The above specimens are believed by the Author to be those of C. conicum.

Both species are dioecious, with male and female organs being on separate plants.

This is a very common liverwort found almost throughout the UK, but tending to avoid the highest mountain areas of Scotland and Eire.

Habitat is moist or wet places that are in the shade most of the time, and on neutral or slightly basic substrates. Rocks and by rivers, waterfalls and streams, or damp banks or walls and on rocky ledges, boulders and in gullies.

ODOUR COMPOUNDS in SCENTED LIVERWORT

There exist three chemo-types of Conocephalum conicum, types 1, 2 and 3, which respectively emit Sabinene, Bornyl Acetate and Methyl Cinnamate as their major components, giving each type a differing characteristic odour when crushed. It is possible that each corresponds with the recent splitting into three differing species, C. conicum, C. salebrosum and C. supradecompositum but this is not made explicit in the literature. The odour is variously described as being camphoraceous, strongly mushroom and lactone-like, although which smell corresponds to which chemical is similarly vague.

Sabinene is a bicyclic monoterpene consisting of a five-membered ring fused to a 3-membered ring and which is present in several plants such as Norway Spruce, Holm Oak, Tea Tree, and contributes to the spiciness of Black Pepper and Nutmeg. It is a major consistent of Carrot seed oil. It is used as a flavour and a perfume and has a woody pine-like fragrance with a spicy nuance.

Methyl Cinnamate is an ester of Cinnamic Acid and has a strong sweet fruity aromatic odour a little like that of Strawberry in which it also occurs, or Cinnamon. It is used in the perfume industry as a perfume and as a flavour, which is fruity again like Strawberry. Methyl Cinnamate also occurs in the Strawberry Gum Eucalyptus treem, in some varieties of Basil and in Sichuan Pepper.

It acts as a pheromone to male orchid bees.

Bornyl Acetate is another ester and has a pine-like camphoraceous odour. It is used in both perfumes and as a flavour.


  Conocephalum conicum  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Conocephalaceae  

genus8Conocephalum
Conocephalum
(Marchanta Liverworts)

SCENTED LIVERWORT

SNAKE LIVERWORT [USA]

Conocephalum conicum

Liverworts Family [Conocephalaceae]

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