Frullania selwyniana   

Selwyn's Ear-leaf Liverwort 

MN Status:
special concern
Federal Status:


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Minnesota range map
Map Interpretation
North American range map
Map Interpretation


Frullania sullivantii

  Basis for Listing

Frullania selwyniana (Selwyn’s ear-leaf liverwort) is a rare endemic of eastern North America, within the boreal bioclimatic zone. It has been recorded regionally from Ontario, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In Minnesota, the species has been recorded in Cook, Lake, and St. Louis counties (Northern Superior Uplands). Frullania selwyniana is restricted to humid paludified swamps dominated by cedar and occasionally from swamps that have cedar and black ash as co-dominants; however, this species appears to prefer to grow only on the bark of older large-diameter Thuja occidentalis (northern white cedar). Although a targeted survey of the Superior National Forest in 2008 turned up many new locations, they only occurred within this particular microhabitat. Given the species’ narrow geographic range in the state, its specialized and restrictive habitat requirements, and the limited amount of available habitat, Frullania selwyniana was designated of special concern in 2013.


Frullania selwyniana is a very small species that grows appressed to its matrix. It has an overall copper-red to reddish-brown color, with irregularly branched stems that are light green, becoming brownish with age. Leaves are bi-lobed, with lobes crowded and overlapping, ovate, with entire margins. These dorsal lobes arch across, though scarcely beyond, the main stem. Lobes are convex, with apices decurved. Smaller lobules (hidden underneath the larger main dorsal lobe) are close to the stem and subparallel with it. These lobules are transformed into a small water sac. The lobules have a distinct segment, or stylus, on their inner edge that is very small. An additional flat under-leaf is smaller still, remote to contiguous, obovate to wedge-shaped, and narrowed toward its base along the stem. Frullania selwyniana may be confused with the more common F. eboracensis; however, the latter species does not have the short row of dark brown cells (ocelli) medially in the proximal part of the dorsal lobe that F. selwyniana exhibits (Janssens 2014).


Frullania selwyniana apparently occurs only on the bark of T. occidentalis in dense cedar swamps, where it may be locally frequent (Schuster 1992). Most of the sites in Minnesota are within highly paludified white cedar swamps (i.e. with significant Sphagnum spp. cover; Janssens and Greenlee 2009) such as northern cedar swamp. However, several records are from cedar trees in ecotones between upland and lowland cedar mesohabitat or in mixed hardwood-conifer or shrub-conifer swamps such as northern wet cedar forest or northern wet ash swamp. It appears that patches of the species tend to be found on the upward-facing bark of leaning trees, usually directed towards a canopy opening.

  Biology / Life History

Frullania selwyniana is an autoicous (male and female reproductive organs in separate inflorescences on the same plant) species.

  Conservation / Management

Climate change may alter the cedar and black ash swamp habitat in which F. selwyniana is found, such that these areas may experience drought stress, increases in insect or disease diebacks, or increased moisture stress (where sites become too wet). Roads may also have an effect on the hydrology of these swamps, impacting the sites in similar ways (i.e., through drought stress or flooding). Additionally, the Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) is a very destructive insect pest of ash trees (Fraxinus spp.), which are the only known host of this borer in North America, and has already killed tens of millions of trees. As such, this destructive beetle could have significant impacts on swamps where black ash is present and thus on F. selwyniana. Furthermore, because many of the old-growth cedar forests in Minnesota are senescing (deteriorating with age), and cedar swamps in general are threatened by poor regeneration, habitat availability will likely be a limiting factor for this species (Janssens 2005).

  Best Time to Search

The best time to search for Frullania selwyniana is from May through September or essentially anytime the ground is not covered by snow. 


Erika R. Rowe (MNDNR), 2018

(Note: all content ©MNDNR)

  References and Additional Information

Janssens, J. A. 2003. Bryophytes of the Northern Superior Uplands and the Superior National Forest: inventory, assessment, and recommendations for conservation. Report submitted to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Superior National Forest. 382. pp.

Janssens, J. A. 2005. Proposed candidates of endangered, threatened, and special concern species of bryophytes for Minnesota: update June 2005. Report to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, County Biological Survey, St. Paul. 18 pp.

Janssens, J. A. 2008. Occurrence of the liverwort Frullania selwyniana on the Superior National Forest, Minnesota. Report submitted to the Superior National Forest, Laurentian Ranger District, Aurora, Minnesota. 59 pp.

Janssens, J. A. 2009. MS Access database on Minnesota bryophytes. Lambda-Max Ecological Research, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Janssens, J. A. 2014. Noteworthy mosses and liverworts of Minnesota. Part I: Illustrated field keys. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 176 pp.

Janssens, J. A. and J. T. Greenlee. 2009. Occurrences of the liverwort Frullania selwyniana in the Superior National Forest, Minnesota; overlooked or recovered? Evansia 26(4):163-171.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 2003. Field guide to the native plant communities of Minnesota: the Laurentian mixed forest province. Ecological Land Classification Program, Minnesota County Biological Survey, and Natural Heritage and Nongame Research Program. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, St. Paul, Minnesota. 352 pp.

NatureServe. 2009. NatureServe Explorer: an online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. <http.//>. Accessed 10 June 2009.

Schuster, R. M. 1966. The Hepaticae and Anthocerotae of North America east of the hundredth meridian. Volume VI. Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois. 937 pp.

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