There are just two vascular plant species on the entire continent: Antarctic hair grass and Antarctic pearlwort. What distinguishes them from other plants, such as mosses, lichens, and fungi, is their capacity to photosynthesize via their vascular system. They can do this because they have leaves and stems that contain water-conducting vessels (xylem) that connect all parts of the plant. The water flows through the stem or root of one plant cell and into another until it reaches its destination--either a branch or another plant. The oxygen produced by the process of photosynthesis helps make up for the lack of air pressure at high altitudes and temperatures. Neither species is particularly abundant nor widespread. There are several factors that may be responsible for their limited distribution including cold temperatures, scarce nutrients, insect damage, and even fire.
When scientists study plant life in Antarctica they often look to species that are able to survive in harsh conditions for example Antarctic hair grass which grows in areas where there is little moisture or nutrient availability. However, many species of flowering plant were once thought to be unique to Antarctica. This is because they require more nutrients than what is found in low levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. However, recent research has shown that some species of flowering plant are capable of growing in much higher concentrations of these elements than was previously thought.
Solely two vascular plants thrive in Antarctica, and they can be found only along the Antarctic Peninsula's shore. And there are some really interesting mosses in Antarctica. The mosses of Antarctica grow largely along the coast and adapt to their harsh surroundings in remarkable ways. One of the most common mosses in Antarctica is called greenland moss (blechnum rossii). It grows mostly during the summer months as a mat of thin, leathery leaves up to 2 inches wide that spreads out across the land. Greenland moss can survive in soil that is frozen for many years without dying back. When spring comes around again, its shoots spread out across the land until it is time for them to die back and turn brown before new shoots appear again the next summer.
Another popular moss in Antarctica is liverwort (menziesia antarctica). It is a small plant with no roots or leaves that only grows within the Antarctic Treaty System areas. Liverworts are unique among mosses because they contain compounds that can cause harm to humans if they are not treated properly. Liverworts are used by jewelers to make fine jewelry because they reproduce quickly under laboratory conditions.
Moss has been used for centuries as a ground cover and stabilizer on buildings, bridges, and roads. In recent years, scientists have started studying mosses more closely because they think they may be able to use them in medicine.
Non-vascular plants, such as mosses, differ in that fluid and mineral transport happens directly from cell to cell. One example is the resurrection plant, which can survive by storing water in its leaves when other plants die around it. A similar thing happens with the algae that live in Antarctica's cold waters. They don't produce flowers or seeds, but instead create spores that will later develop into new plants when the conditions are right.
Mosses have been used for centuries to beautify both urban and natural landscapes. In the modern world, they're popular again as houseplants because they require little care other than water when not being grown in soil. There are even a few species of moss that will grow in light shade or complete darkness if provided with moisture every few days.
Moss also has many practical uses. For example, it can be used to clean up radioactive areas after disasters such as earthquakes or tornados. The rock-hard tissue of most mosses contains a lot of silicon, which means they're useful for producing durable materials such as glass or fiber-optic cables. Scientists have also shown that they can use moss extracts to make medicines that fight cancer and other diseases. Finally, moss is important for understanding how ancient organisms survived extreme conditions that would have killed most others.
Antarctica has been home to over 130 species. This comprises 100 moss species and 25 to 30 hepatics, or liverworts. They are usually little leafy plants that grow either erect or creeping. Bryophytes may be found in practically every location of the Antarctic that can sustain plant life. They are very successful at freezing into death when the temperature drops low enough.
Liverworts are unique among flowering plants because they do not produce seeds but instead give rise to offspring called spores that are spread by wind (or sometimes water) to start new colonies. The first spore produces a germling that grows into a thallus-the main body of the plant consisting mainly of veins with few leaves or no leaves at all-which then produces more spores. This is how all liverworts reproduce.
As you can see, liverworts have a lot of differences from flowering plants like roses that include flowers with petals, a central stem with branches, and seeds that allow for reproduction to occur only if needed. However, both liverworts and flowers are classified as vascular plants because they need water and sunlight to survive and grow. Also, like most other green plants, they use carbon dioxide and water vapor during photosynthesis to make sugar and oxygen, which we can use to live our lives. Liverworts were once thought to be a sister group to flowering plants, but recent research has shown them to be more closely related to mosses.
Many of the lichens found in Antarctica are unique to the region. Several of the lichen species found here are also present on sub-Antarctic islands and in colder portions of the southern continent. These might be the southern expansion of these populations. This region boasts the largest diversity of species in Antarctica. There are more than 170 known lichen species in Antarctica, making it one of the most lichenized places on Earth.
The most important factor for lichen growth is moisture. Most Antarctic lichens can only grow in soil with high levels of moisture content. They use their holdfasts to attach themselves to other objects in order to avoid being washed away by rain or snow. Some species can also propagate by spores spread by the wind; this is called "myceliation".
Lichens are used by scientists as indicators of environmental change. As the environment warms due to climate change, some species will be able to spread further south than they can today while others will become extinct. Lichens are also useful for studying past temperatures because each species has its own optimal temperature for growth. If a sample of lichens comes from regions that are currently at different temperatures, then by measuring how much has grown or died you can estimate how hot/cold it was where the samples were taken.
Antarctica is considered a desert because most of the land is covered in ice and cold conditions prevail year round.