Many people will not have heard of bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts), but these tiny plants play a vital role in regulating our ecosystems. They provide an important buffer system for other plants, which live alongside and benefit from the water and nutrients that bryophytes collect. The bog mosses (Sphagnum species) are better known than many bryophytes and form peat bogs, which are good at absorbing and retaining carbon dioxide.
Kew is working with other organisations, including English Nature, to protect endangered bryophytes and holds one of the country's few laboratory collections (16 species, so far). Bryophytes are one of the plant groups conserved in our Micropropagation Laboratory, where they are grown in Petri dishes and then stored cryogenically in liquid nitrogen. The aim is to establish a comprehensive collection for conservation purposes and to use material from the collection for the re-introduction of endangered bryophytes back into their natural habitats.
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You can see bryophytes at Wakehurst Place in the Loder Valley Nature Reserve (limited access) and the Francis Rose Reserve