Analysis of the cations in a range of bryophytes, using a differential ion displacement technique, has shown that potassium is mainly soluble within the cells, calcium is bound, exchangeably, to sites in the cell wall and is insoluble within the cell and magnesium is present in all three locations. After desiccation, soluble ions either leak into the rehydrating solution (e.g. potassium and some magnesium) or become bound to the cell-wall exchange sites (e.g. most of the magnesium). Leakage of intracellular ions can be used as a measure of membrane damage. An index of desiccation resistance (based on potassium retention within the cells after storage at 52 and 100% r.h.) is related to the availability of water in each bryophyte's habitat and is significantly correlated with the total potassium content of the plant. Reduced cation leakage occurred after material was transferred from either 52 or 0% r.h. to 100% r.h., indicating the ability of bryophytes to recover from such desiccation stress. An index of recovery is presented which shows that most bryophytes, unless excessively stressed, are able to repair the damage caused by desiccation.