The Marchantiophyta [mɑː(r)ˌkæntiˈɑːfɪtə] (help·info) are a division of bryophyte plants commonly referred to as hepatics or liverworts. Like other bryophytes, they have a gametophyte-dominant life cycle, in which cells of the plant carry only a single set of genetic information.
It is estimated that there are 6000 to 8000 species of liverworts. Some of the more familiar species grow as a flattened leafless thallus, but most species are leafy with a form very much like a flattened moss. Leafy species can most reliably be distinguished from the apparently similar mosses by their single-celled rhizoids. Other differences are not universal for all mosses and all liverworts, but the occurrence of leaves arranged in three ranks, the presence of deep lobes or segmented leaves, or a lack of clearly differentiated stem and leaves all point to the plant being a liverwort.
Liverworts are typically small, usually from 2-20 mm wide with individual plants less than 10 cm long, and are therefore often overlooked. However, certain species may cover large patches of ground, rocks, trees or any other reasonably firm substrate on which they occur. They are distributed globally in almost every available habitat, most often in humid locations although there are desert and arctic species as well. Some species can be a nuisance in shady green-houses or a weed in gardens.
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