Embryophytes: Land plants

Viridiophytes: green plants

The discovery of remarkable similarities shared by bryophytes, ferns, and certain seed plants suggest that only a single lineage of green plants successfully colonized land. The transition from an aquatic to a terrestrial environment was a period of remarkable morphological innovation. Based upon similarities in their photosynthetic pigments, cell structure and spermatozoid morphology, it is widely accepted that land plants evolved from a green algal-like ancestor, and the major lineages of land plants had diversified by the end of the Devonian period some 360 million years ago. The bryophytes, pteridophytes, and gymnosperms dominated the land for most of this time, yielding to the angiosperms only in about last 120 million years. Our understanding of the evolutionary history of land plants has been revised by a multitude of phylogenetic studies in recent years. These studies refute the prevailing view that the horsetails and ferns form an evolutionary transition between the bryophytes and seed plants. Instead recent studies support three monophyletic lineages of vascular plants corresponding to the lycophytes, seed plants, and a clade that includes the horsetails, psilophytes (whisk ferns) and all eusporangiate and leptosporangiate ferns. This latter lineage, the horsetails and ferns are the closest relatives of the seed plants.

Indigenous or exotic to New Zealand.

NZ Flora Web Site Link to the Ngā Tipu o Aotearoa Database

Bowe, L. M.; Coat, G.; dePamphilis, C. W. 2000. Phylogeny of seed plants based on three genomic compartments: extant gymnosperms are monophyletic and Gnetales closest relatives are conifers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 97: 4092-4097.
Chaw, S-M.; Parkinson, C. L.; Cheng, Y.; Vincent, T. M.; Palmer, J. D. 2000: Seed plant phylogeny inferred from all three plant genomes: monophyly of extant gymnosperms and origin of Gnetales from conifers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 97: 4086-4091.
Kendrick, P.; Crane, P. R. 1997. The origin and early diversification of land plants: a cladistic study. Smithsonia Institution Press, Washington.
Korall, P.; Kenrick, P. 2002. Phylogenetic relationships in Selaginellaceae based on rbcL s
Pryor, K. M.; Schneider, H.; Smith, A. R.; Cranfill, R.; Wolf, P. G.; Hunt, J. S.; Sipes, S. D. 2001: Horsetails and ferns are a monophyletic group and the closest living relatives to the seed plants. Nature 409: 618-622.
Soltis, P. S.; Soltis, D. E.; Savolainen, V.; Crane, P. R.; Barraclough, T. G. 2002. Rate heterogeneity among lineages of tracheophytes: integration of molecular and fossil data and evidence for molecular living fossils. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 99: 4430-4435.
Wikstöm, N, and P. Kenrick. 2001: Evolution of Lycopodiaceae (Lycopsida): estimating divergence times from rbcL gene sequences by use of nonparametric rate smoothing. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 19: 177–186.
Last updated: 05-Mar-2013