© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology. Mosses are among the earliest branching embryophytes and probably originated not later than the early Ordovician when atmospheric CO2 was higher and O2 was lower than today. The C3 biochemistry and physiology of their photosynthesis suggests, by analogy with tracheophytes, that growth of extant bryophytes in high CO2 approximating Ordovician values would increase the growth rate. This occurs for many mosses, including Physcomitrella patens in suspension culture, although recently published transcriptomic data on this species at high CO2 and present-day CO2 show down-regulation of the transcription of several genes related to photosynthesis. It would be useful if transcriptomic (and proteomic) data comparing growth conditions are linked to measurements of growth and physiology on the same, or parallel, cultures. Mosses (like later-originating embryophytes) have been subject to changes in bulk atmospheric CO2 and O2 throughout their existence, with evidence, albeit limited, for positive selection of moss Rubisco. Extant mosses are subject to a large range of CO2 and O2 concentrations in their immediate environments, especially aquatic mosses, and mosses are particularly influenced by CO2 generated by, and O2 consumed by, soil chemoorganotrophy from organic C produced by tracheophytes (if present) and bryophytes.