They All began Here

It might sound judgmental, but “lower” actually describes organisms that developed lower, or earlier, top top the evolutionary ladder than forbs, grasses and also trees. Lock were some of the very first organisms come anchor us onto rocks and soils, which aided limit erosion. Lock were likewise some the the first to generate power through photosynthesis and recycle nutrients into the floor for usage by various other organisms. These simple processes ultimately created conditions that enabled more complicated plants to develop and also flourish.

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The general an interpretation of “lower” varies from source to source, but for our purposes, it consists of ferns and also fern allies, mosses, liverworts, and hornworts, algae, fungi and also lichens.

Ferns & Fern Allies

Like forbs, grasses and trees, ferns space “vascular” plants. They have special tissues that transfer fluids and nutrients internally. They also have true root systems, leaves and also stems. However, ferns space unlike most plants because they carry out not create flowers and seeds. Instead, they use spores to reproduce.

The spores the ferns develop are different than seeds. They carry out not keep as countless nutrients as seed or have actually protective coverings. Come compensate, ferns produce large amounts that spores come ensure that some will endure until germination. Additionally, a spore has everything it requirements to thrive into a “sporophyte” and ultimately into a mature fern. Unequal a seed, that doesn’t should pollinate v another component of the fern prior to it have the right to reach that stage.

Fern allies, such together quillworts, horsetails (also called scouring rushes) and club mosses, are similar to ferns yet have enough genetic distinctions that ecologists have placed lock in their own plant divisions.


Image byDomenico D"Alessandro

Mosses, Liverworts & Hornworts

Mosses, liverworts and hornworts are collectively called “bryophytes.” Bryophytes are nonvascular plants: They perform not have special organization — tissues that botanists call “xylem” and “phloem” — to deliver fluids and nutrients internally. Additionally, bryophytes perform not create flowers and also seeds. Instead, like ferns, they usage spores to reproduce.

Of the bryophytes, mosses space the many prevalent. Woodland Preserve ar ecologists and also volunteers have figured out 225 in DuPage county in a range of places from dried surfaces, trees and also rocks come underwater niches. Part grow virtually anywhere when others just inhabit certain ecosystems.

Mosses are typically soft tree that prosper in clumps or mats. Like various other plants, they create chlorophyll and undergo photosynthesis, however they execute not have true roots. Lock instead have multicelled, rootlike appendages dubbed “rhizoids,” i beg your pardon anchor the plants and take in water and minerals. Because rhizoids space less reliable than roots, mosses normally prefer damp places with short light. As soon as dry, they have the right to go dormant, illustration moisture and nutrients from the green part of the plant ago in the rhizoids, which reasons their leaflike structures to curl. Once moist conditions return, they spring earlier to life, turn green and grow. Their spores thrive in beaklike capsules and also are usually dispersed by the wind. Because of mosses’ acute sensitivity to pollution, they space potential signs of the health of natural areas.

Like mosses, liverworts create spores and live in shady, wet habitats, but they room not together biologically complicated as mosses. Despite not always the case, a absence of plainly differentiated stemlike and also leaflike structures likely means a tree is a liverwort and also not a moss. The liver-shaped, leaflike frameworks on some liverworts offer this division of tree its typical name. There are 118 types of liverworts in Illinois, but only around 12 have been checked out in Du page County.

The third division of bryophytes, hornworts, is fairly rare in Illinois; ecologists have recorded just three types in the state and only one in the Chicago region. Hornworts resemble liverworts however produce your spores on long horn-shaped structures that prosper from the base of the plants, amongst other differences. This structures provide this department of plants its typical name.


Algae space a huge group of typically aquatic plants. Like bryophytes, algae room nonvascular: They lack the xylem and phloem organization that deliver fluids and nutrients internally. They execute not have actually leaves, roots or flowers, nor carry out they have actually rhizoids or leaflike structures prefer some nonvascular plants. Algae do, however, usage chlorophyll to transform sunlight into energy. They selection in size from single-cell organisms to larger, more complex ones, and also Forest preserve District ecologists have recorded over 40 species in DuPage County.


Although fungi room featured in this section for simplicity’s sake, they are not technically plants. Comparable to plants, animals and bacteria, fungi comprise their own team of associated organisms dubbed a “kingdom.” Ecologists have established over 1,000 species of mushroom in the Chicago area.

Fungi, which include molds, yeasts and mushrooms, room primarily different from plants since they have various cellular compositions and also different ancestors. Fungi also do not have roots, leaves, flowers or stems and also do not create chlorophyll, which some plants use to turn sunlight right into energy. Fungi instead obtain nutrients from the live or dead tissues of plants and also animals, most from disc matter. A fungus’s main body, the “mycelium,” tricks enzymes the the fungus provides to digest the surroundings. Fungi play important eco-friendly roles due to the fact that they decompose necessary matter and also recycle nutrients.


A lichen is actually made up of two different organisms: a fungus and also either an alga or cyanobacterium. The two components live in a symbiotic relationship, the survival of every dependent on a particular resource from the other. The alga or bacter manufactures food v photosynthesis. This feeds the fungus, i m sorry in turn gives the bulk of the lichen’s body. The two organisms develop a “thallus,” a distinctive body that resembles neither individual species.

Lichens perform not have roots and also do not need a continuous supply that water. This offers them the ability to colonize locations that an ext developed tree cannot, such as bare rock, sterile ground, eroded soil and artificial structures. Lichens happen in some of the most extreme atmospheres on earth however are vulnerable to environmental disturbance and also are helpful indicators the pollution.

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Forest preserve District ecologists, volunteers and researchers have documented over 200 types of lichens in DuPage County..