Embryophyta (Land Plants)


Almost all plants that live on land are classified as Embryophyta, with the exception of some terrestrial algae. Embryophyta includes a remarkable diversity of forms and some of the largest living organisms on Earth.

Keywords: bryophyte; tracheophyte; phylogeny; systematics; fossil

Figure 1.

Fossil and living Embryophyta. (a) 390 million year old fossil of Cooksonia pertoni (rhyniophyte) showing a minute dichotomous stem with expanded spore‐bearing terminal regions. Sewing needle for scale on left. (b) The living hornwort Anthoceros; s, long, thin sporophyte (spore‐bearing part of life cycle); g, thalloid gametophyte (gamete‐bearing part of life cycle).

Figure 2.

Summary of relationships among some major groups of land plants. †, extinct group. (a) The relationship between bryophytes (mosses, hornworts, liverworts) and tracheophytes (all other groups). (b) Relationships among major groups of euphyllophytes (all living tracheophytes except lycopods).

Figure 3.

Soft tissue preservation in 400 million year old land plants from the Rhynie Chert, Scotland. (a) Cross‐section of stem. (b) Tetrad of spores inside a sporangium. (c) Guard cells of stomate in epidermis.


Further Reading

Berner RA (1998) The carbon cycle and CO2 over Phanerozoic time: the role of land plants. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 353: 75–82.

Donoghue MJ and Doyle JA (2000) Seed plant phylogeny: demise of the anthophyte hypothesis. Current Biology 10: R106–109.

Gensel PG and Andrews HN (1984) Plant Life in the Devonian. New York: Praeger.

Graham LE (1993) Origin of Land Plants. New York: Wiley.

Kenrick P (2000) The relationships of vascular plants. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 355: 847–855.

Kenrick P and Crane PR (1997) The origin and early evolution of plants on land. Nature 389: 33–39.

Pryer KM et al. (2001) Horsetails and ferns are a monophyletic group and the closest living relatives to seed plants. Nature 409: 618–622.

Wellman CH and Gray J (2000) The microfossil record of early land plants. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B355: 717–732.

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How to Cite close
Kenrick, Paul(Nov 2001) Embryophyta (Land Plants). In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0003675]