Plant Diversity


What feature of liverworts hints at their name?

Liverworts were named during the Middle Ages, when herbalists followed the theoretical approach known as the “Doctrine of Signatures.” The core philosophy of this work was that if a plant part resembled a human organ or body part, it would be useful in treating ailments of that organ or part. For example, the thallus of thalloid liverworts resembles a lobed liver; therefore, in line with this philosophy, the plant was used to treat liver ailments. The word “liver” was combined with “wort” (meaning “herb”); thus, the name “liverwort.” Today, liverworts provide food for foraging animals. Due to their ability to retain moisture, liverworts also assist in the decay of logs and aid in the disintegration of rocks into soil.


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