The familiar leafy moss plant is the sexual phase of the moss life cycle. When mature, most mosses develop sex organs . Some mosses have separate male and female plants, whereas others have male and female sex organs on the same plant. In wet conditions, sperm cells are released from male sex organs (antheridia) and swim to the female organs (archegonia), attracted by a chemical released by the female organ. If a sperm cell fertilises the egg cell embedded within the female organ, a spore-producing plant develops. This consists of a stalk with a spore capsule attached to the parent moss plant. As the spore capsule matures it releases its spores into the air, and then dies. If moss spores fall in a damp place, they germinate and grow into leafy moss plants, and the cycle is completed.
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Artwork by Bruce Mahalski
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