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Can anyone tell what this evil-looking specimen is? I bought a potted aubretia plant which subsequently died and this odd-looking plant appeared in its place. The leaves are covered with strange funnel-like formations. I have never seen anything like this before.
Definitely liverwort. The growing conditions explain why the aubrieta died - it likes good drainage.
Thank you both for your replies - I hadn't a clue! I don't think I'll be keeping it, though. After looking it up, I think it could be a problem if allowed to spread.
Liverwort appears whenever soil or compost gets persistently wet, and this year that means a lot of liverwort! We get it on and between our flagstones, mostly it dries up and disappears, but in pots I do remove it as I find it quite ugly - besides, it usually means something needs correcting in the pots. A very old 'plant' that appears to be somewhere between lichen/moss and ferns.
One of the first things I learnt about in Botany many years ago - fascinating 'plant' - it thrives in dark damp places and will disappear when conditions dry out and light levels improve. If it survived at the expense of your aubretia it may be that the aubretia was in the wrong place as it likes well drained sunny conditions - although that sort of spot has been dfficult to provide this year
Liverworts are fascinating! They're descendants of some of the first plants to colonise the land. Your liverwort is Marchantia polymorpha, which is really common in pots and, if you look closely, you'll see some cup-like structures on the surface. These contain tiny propagules called 'gemmae', which are dispersed by rain drops, spreading the liverwort far and wide! Liverworts don't harm other plants, but they're a symptom of excessive moisture, so as long as you keep your compost on the dry side, you shouldn't have to worry about them.
My aubrieta was weak to start with - it was in a pot on my porch window where it gets the sun all afternoon. I intended to keep it there to build it up before planting it out but it never made it. I think my husband may have over-watered it, which will have encouraged the liver-wort and killed the poor old aubrieta! Nevertheless, it has introduced me to a plant which I never knew existed so that's a bonus.