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tasmanian liverworts - jungermanniaceae

cuspidatula sp.

Cuspidatula 121018D
1. habit: 121020A (moist) on left and 121018D (dry) on right - not to scale


Cuspidatula monodon is known as a monotype for Australia/New Zealand. It is a common liverwort on the Blue Tier, usually found as an epiphyte or growing on rocks overlaid with organic debris. We have found this growing only at high altitude, at around 700m, in Nothofagus country.

However local specimens (designated 121020A) do not conform to type descriptions in E&G¹ and Schuster² listed below. Examination of our specimen shows that it has 1-8 uniseriate cells terminating the leaf tip where E&G as well as Schuster report 8(12)-15 cells. Likewise our specimen has up to 18 oil bodies per median cell where E&G report 3(5)-(7)10. The diagram provided in Scott³ seems to conform to our specimens than to type descriptions. It is possible that populations confirming to type co-exist with the impostor but we have not studied the herbarium specimens to determine this see below.

Recently we collected a specimen, 121018D, from a much lower altitude (130m), in dry sclerophyll - surrounding vegetation being Eucalyptus viminalis, E. amygdalina and Banksia marginata. It was growing on sandy soil on a slope close to a seepage which had Gleicheina sp.and Sphagnum sp. so it is likely to have adequate moisture available throughout the year.

It is considerably different from 121020A, and we tabulate some differences below. Note that far from being caudate, some of the 121018D leaf tips are obtuse (pix 7). We have relied on E&G description of C. monodon for comparison. Leaf measurements on 121020A and 121018D were done on very limited sampling but we have no reason to believe they are not typical.

121018D: Oil bodies are more numerous, larger and fill more of the cell lumen than 121020A. In fact they were so densely packed we have been unable to determine their exact number in many cases. Both of our specimens differ from type description of C. monodon.
There was a single colony sporting numerous terminal perianths but we are unable to confirm if this is dioecious as reported for the genus.
Ventral-intercalary branches are common, sometimes grouped closely, but we have been unable to determine the origins of lateral branches.

September/November 2013 - we checked the colony several times and found gynoecia on terminal shoots as well as on short branches along the stem but none showed signs of having been fertilised; no androecia were present in our limited sampling (the 'perianth' in pix 6 may be an aborted gynoecia and sporeling in pix 9 may be a foreign object). It is possible this is a female only colony. We discovered an association with fungi with stems sporting several fruiting bodies of an ascomycota.

December 2014 - It has been brought to our notice that the type specimen was collected in Tasmania by Dr Spence in 1824 and is held at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Descriptions by E&G as well as by Schuster are based upon NZ specimens.

February 2015 - We have now examined specimens held at the Tasmanian Herbarium as well as obtained details of a dozen NZ specimens and conclude that generally C. monodon is found with fewer than 8 uniseriate cells with l:w ratio of ultimate cells being no more than 3:1. Descriptions in Schuster and E&G would have to be based upon extremes that are not represented in the specimens examined. However we note that the diagrams in both books do not match the descriptions but do match the specimens examined. (Thanks to DG for the NZ data.)
We recently came across a local specimen with 14 uniseriate cells at the tip having rather short cell ratios but this is exceptional.

Please use wide screen for viewing data tables

  Engel & Glenny¹ Schuster² Scott³ 121020A 121018D
stem length usually under
20mm long
N/A N/A ≈20 mm up to 50mm long
leaf size†
(pix 2)
0.57-1.1 x 0.75-1.65 mm
N/A N/A 0.9 x 1.23 mm 1.01 x 1.33 mm
leaf tip
(pix 3 & 8)
8-15 uniseriate cells‡ 12-15 uniseriate
2 uniseriate
1-8 uniseriate cells 1-5 uniseriate cells
leaf tip cell ratio 6-8:1 5-8:1‡ 3:2 2-6:1* 1-3:1
oil bodies
median cells
3-10 5-10 N/A 4-18 10->20
habitat variable variable N/A montane dry sclerophyll
fungal partner absent N/A N/A N/A ascomycota


Comparison of features, both to same scale.

2. leaves
leaf tips
3. leaf tips
leaf cells
4. leaf cells
stem TS
5. 121018D stem TS

Perianth and leaf tip details of 121018D

6. perianth
perianth mouth
7. perianth mouth
leaf tips
8. leaf tips
9. sporeling


† Measured on leaves depicted here
‡ Descriptions do not match diagrams in both books
* This is probably an error since we have not encountered any specimen with longer than 4:1 ratio. The original specimen was destroyed and no photographic evidence exists.

Specimens have been lodged with HO and SYD.

- ¹Engel, J.J. & Glenny, D., A Flora of the Liverworts and Hornworts of New Zealand: Volume 1 p.726-732 Online version
- ²Schuster, R. Austral Hepaticae Part 2, ISBN 3-443-51041-8; pp 412-4
- ³Scott, G.A.M., Southern Australian Liverworts, Australian Flora and Fauna Series #2, 1986 (ISBN 064403632X). Diagram on p.127


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121020-1, 7, 1, 196, 2875