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What Are The Four Types Of Vascular Plants?

Updated on January 10, 2012

What Is A Vascular Plant?

When it comes to land dwelling plants, there are two main types: bryophytes (think moss) and vascular plants (such as ferns or trees). Basically, a vascular plant is a plant which has vascular tissues that allow it to transport nutrients throughout itself. These tissues, the xylem and phloem, serve the same function as the vascular system does in animals! They just transport water and essential nutrients more effectively than non-vascular plants and allows for the plants to be, on average, much larger and taller. This is why you don't see huge 30 foot high mosses.

Among vascular plants there are four main types: lycophytes, monilophytes. gymnosperms, and angiosperms.

Lycophytes (Lycopodiophyta)

The division Lycopodiophta is the oldest living division of vascular plants. In fact, the division developed nearly 410 million years ago! Consequently, of the nearly 1,200 species of lycophytes in existence today, many of them have remained relatively unchanged since then and are some of the most primitive forms of vascular plants.

Lycophytes reproduce using spores, not seeds, and feature alternation of generations. This means that when one generation of a lycophyte is a sporophyte, the next will be a gametophyte, and then the next will be a sporophyte, and so on.

An example of a lycophyte is the club moss, not to be confused with non-vascular moss.

Monilophytes (Polypodiophyta)

Monilophytes, more commonly known as ferns, are members of the division Polypodiophyta. Polypodiophyta first appeared nearly 360 million years ago during the Carboniferous period and, like the Lycopodiophyta, are some of the most primitive vascular plants out there.

What distinguished monilophytes from lycophytes, however, is the fact that they have true leaves. Otherwise, they reproduce in a very similar manner -- using spores and alteration of generations.

Gymnosperms (Pinophyta)

Gymnosperms are seed bearing plants in the aptly named division of Pinophyta. The division name is very easy to remember for gymnosperms because they're basically just pine trees (conifers, cycads, Gingko, etc.). The name gynosperm refers to the fact that their seeds are "naked." The seeds of gymnosperms are not enclosed and are often times exposed as a part of a cone.

Angiosperms (Magnoliophyta)

Angiosperms are flowering plants that feature seeds that are enclosed within a fruit of some sort. The flowers of angiosperms are the reproductive organs of the plant and feature stamens which produce pollen and prevent self-fertilization (this results in a more diverse population).

Members of the Magnoliophyta division include fruit bearing trees, flowers, and cacti.

Extra Info: Euphyllophytes

The four divisions of plants listed above are the four types of vascular plants. It is also important to note that the three divisions other than the lycopodiophyta are collectively known as the euphyllophytes.


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