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Crescent-cup Liverwort

Lunularia cruciata

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Plant Profile

Lunulariaceae (Liverworts)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 centimetre long
Gardens, rocky places, towns, walls, waterside, wetland, woodland.
Liverworts are not flower-bearing. Instead, they reproduce using umbrella-like structures known as gametophores. The female spore-producing structures are stalked. The male structures are on the surface of the plant.
Cross-shaped capsules (rarely appearing).
Pale green, waxy and mat-forming. The crescent-shaped receptacles on the leafy surface of the plant are unique to thallose liverworts and make this species easy to identify.
Other Names:
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Lunularia cruciata, also known as the "moonwort," is a species of fern that is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. It is known for its small, crescent-shaped leaves that grow in clusters on creeping underground stems. The fern prefers moist, well-drained soils and partial shade, and it is often found growing in crevices of rocks, on walls, and in other rocky habitats. It is often grown as an ornamental plant in gardens and rock gardens, used in terrariums and as a ground cover.


Liverworts are a diverse group of non-vascular plants that are found in various habitats around the world. One of the most fascinating members of this group is the Crescent-cup Liverwort, Lunularia cruciata. This plant is known for its unique crescent-shaped cups, which are produced on the upper surface of the thallus, and its ability to grow in both moist and dry environments.

Description and Habitat

Lunularia cruciata is a small, leafy liverwort that belongs to the family Marchantiaceae. It typically grows in dense mats or patches on damp soil, rocks, walls, and even in the crevices of pavements. The plant is often found in urban areas, where it can tolerate pollution and dry conditions. The plant has a flattened thallus that is typically divided into two to four lobes. The lobes are broad, oval-shaped, and slightly toothed along the edges.

One of the most distinctive features of Lunularia cruciata is the crescent-shaped cups that are produced on the upper surface of the thallus. These cups are about 1-2 mm in diameter and are lined with small, green, photosynthetic cells. The cups are thought to play a role in water absorption and retention, and they may also help to protect the plant from desiccation.


Like most liverworts, Lunularia cruciata reproduces asexually through the production of spores. Spores are produced in small capsules that develop at the base of the cups. When the capsules are mature, they split open to release the spores, which are dispersed by the wind.

Lunularia cruciata can also reproduce vegetatively through fragmentation. The plant can easily break apart into small pieces, which can then grow into new individuals under the right conditions.


Lunularia cruciata is not typically used for any specific purpose, but it is an interesting and unique plant that is often studied by botanists and other scientists. The plant has been used in studies of plant morphology, anatomy, and physiology, and it has also been used as a model organism for studying plant development and growth.

Lunularia cruciata is also known to be a bioindicator of air pollution. The plant is sensitive to sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants, and its presence or absence can be used to assess the air quality in urban areas.

The Crescent-cup Liverwort, Lunularia cruciata, is a fascinating plant that is known for its unique crescent-shaped cups and its ability to grow in a variety of environments. Although it is not commonly used for any specific purpose, it has been studied extensively by scientists and can be used as a bioindicator of air pollution. Its small size and ease of cultivation make it an excellent model organism for studying plant development and growth.

More Information

Lunularia cruciata is also known by other common names such as Moonwort, Lunularia, and Crescent-cup Liverwort. It is native to Europe, but it has been introduced to other parts of the world, including North America, Australia, and New Zealand. In some regions, it is considered an invasive species, as it can quickly form dense mats that outcompete other plants.

Despite its small size and lack of economic value, Lunularia cruciata has cultural significance in some regions. In Japan, for example, it is considered a sacred plant and is used in traditional ceremonies and festivals. It is also used in traditional medicine in some parts of the world, although its medicinal properties have not been extensively studied.

Lunularia cruciata is an interesting plant for gardeners and plant enthusiasts. It is easy to cultivate and can be grown in a variety of containers, including terrariums and indoor pots. The plant prefers moist, well-draining soil and indirect sunlight. It can be propagated through spores or by division of the thallus.

Lunularia cruciata is a unique and fascinating plant that is worthy of study and appreciation. Its distinctive crescent-shaped cups and ability to grow in a variety of environments make it an interesting subject for botanists and plant enthusiasts alike. As a bioindicator of air pollution and a model organism for studying plant development, it has important scientific value. Its cultural significance and ease of cultivation make it a popular choice for gardens and indoor plant collections.

Lunularia cruciata has been found to have potential use in bioremediation, which is the process of using living organisms to remove pollutants from the environment. Studies have shown that the plant has the ability to absorb heavy metals such as lead, copper, and zinc from contaminated soil. This makes it a promising candidate for use in the remediation of contaminated sites.

Another interesting aspect of Lunularia cruciata is its ability to undergo desiccation and revive when rehydrated. This process, known as anhydrobiosis, is common in some organisms that live in extreme environments. The plant can survive for several weeks without water, and when water becomes available again, it can quickly revive and resume growth. This ability has been studied by scientists and may have potential applications in fields such as biotechnology and agriculture.

Furthermore, Lunularia cruciata has been used in education and outreach programs to teach students and the public about the importance of plants and the environment. The plant's unique features and easy cultivation make it an excellent teaching tool for botany and environmental science.

Lunularia cruciata is a versatile plant with many interesting features and potential applications. Its ability to remove pollutants from the environment, undergo anhydrobiosis, and serve as a teaching tool make it a valuable resource for scientists, educators, and plant enthusiasts. Its continued study and appreciation may lead to new discoveries and applications in the future.

Lunularia cruciata also plays an important ecological role as a pioneer plant species. It can quickly colonize disturbed areas, such as bare soil or rock, and create a suitable environment for other plant species to establish themselves. The plant's ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen also contributes to soil fertility and supports other plant growth.

In addition to its ecological benefits, Lunularia cruciata has potential economic uses. It contains compounds that have been found to have antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties. These compounds may have applications in the development of new drugs or natural remedies.

Overall, Lunularia cruciata is a fascinating plant with many interesting features and potential applications. Its importance in the environment, cultural significance, and economic potential make it a valuable subject for further study and exploration. As we continue to learn more about this plant, we may discover new uses and applications that could benefit society and the environment.

Some Facts about Lunularia cruciata

Facts about Lunularia cruciata, or Crescent-cup Liverwort, include:

  • It is a small, leafy liverwort that is native to Europe but has been introduced to other parts of the world.
  • It is named for its distinctive crescent-shaped cups, which contain male and female reproductive structures.
  • It can grow in a variety of environments, including moist soil, rock crevices, and tree bark.
  • It is a bioindicator of air pollution, as it can absorb heavy metals and other pollutants from the environment.
  • It has potential economic uses, as it contains compounds with antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties.

In summary, Lunularia cruciata is a unique and interesting plant with a range of ecological, cultural, and economic significance. Its distinctive features, ease of cultivation, and potential applications make it a valuable subject for further study and exploration.