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Moss Life Cycles

By Frank Whittemore ; Updated September 21, 2017
Mosses produce spore capsules
flowering moss image by lugome from Fotolia.com

Mosses are among the simplest plants and though they come in many shapes and sizes, they share the same reproductive process. They do not produce flowers. Instead, they go through a reproductive cycle with two growth stages. The first produces the plant itself. As it grows, portions will differentiate into male and female parts. When fertilization occurs, the next growth stage begins and the plant will produce spores that will begin the reproductive process again.

Spore Stage

Moss life cycles begin with a spore dispersed by the wind. Spores that land in fertile conditions will germinate and produce thin thread-like growths called protonema, which are the juvenile form of the plant.


As the protonema continues to grow, it will eventually produce buds above ground and rhizoids, tiny root-like structures below. The rhizoids will anchor the plant and provide nutrients from the soil.

Gametophyte Formation

The buds will eventually form leafy growths. Some of these will become gametophytes, the reproductive parts of the moss. Some will mature into the male parts of the plant, called antheridia, while others will form the female parts called archegonia.


The antheridia will produce flagellate sperm that will be splashed to the archegonia by rain water. The sperm will then swim to and fertilize the egg. This then forms a zygote.


The zygote will then grow into a sporophyte. This is a stem-like projection that grows from the gametophyte. At the tip of the sporophyte is a capsule, which contains new spores. When the capsule ripens, it will open to release the spores, starting the life cycle over.


About the Author


In Jacksonville, Fla., Frank Whittemore is a content strategist with over a decade of experience as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy and a licensed paramedic. He has over 15 years experience writing for several Fortune 500 companies. Whittemore writes on topics in medicine, nature, science, technology, the arts, cuisine, travel and sports.