Anthocerotales

This small and very natural group includes the three genera Anthoceros, Dendroceros and Notothylas, and stands in many respects in an isolated position among the Bryophyta. Three species of Anthoceros occur in Britain, growing on the damp soil of fields, ditches, etc. The dark green thallus has an ill-defined midrib, and is composed of parenchymatous cells. In each assimilating cell there is usually a single large chloroplast. The apical region, which has a single initial cell, is protected by mucilage secreted by the mucilage slits, which are small pit-like depressions between superficial cells of the lower surface. Mucilage is also often formed in intercellular spaces within the thallus. Colonies of Nostoc are constantly found living in some of the mucilage slits which then become enlarged. The sexual organs are scattered over the upper surface. The stalked globular antheridia are exceptional in being formed endogenously, and are situated in groups in special intercellular spaces. The superficial layer of cells bounding the cavity does not break down until the antheridia are nearly mature. Occasionally antheridia develop on the surface of shaded portions of the thallus. The necks of the archegonia hardly project above the general surface of the thallus.

In structure and development they agree with other Hepaticae, though differences of detail exist. The young sporogonium is protected by a thick calyptra derived from the tissue of the thallus around the archegonium. The sporogonium consists of a large bulbous foot, the superficial cells of which grow out into processes, and a long capsule, which continues to grow for months by the activity of a zone of cells between it and the foot, and may attain the length of an inch and a half. The wall of the capsule is several layers of cells thick, and since the epidermis contains functional stomata and the underlying cells possess chlorophyll it is capable of assimilation. In the centre of the capsule is a strand of narrow elongated cells forming the columella, and between this and the wall spores mixed with elaters are formed from the dome-shaped archesporium, the origin of which has already been described (fig. 4, D). The capsule opens by splitting into two valves from the apex downwards, and the mature spores escape while others are developing in succession below. In Dendroceros, which grows as an epiphyte in the tropics, the thallus has a well-defined midrib and broad wings composed of a single layer of cells.

The capsule is similar to that of Anthoceros, but has no stomata, and the elaters have spirally thickened walls. Some species of Anthoceros agree with it in these respects. Notothylas resembles Anthoceros in its thallus, but the sporogonium is much smaller. In some species, although the columella and archesporium arise in the usual way, both give rise to mingled spores and elaters, and no sterile columella is developed.