Simple Plants

Plants are classified into several different types including the mosses and liverworts (Bryophyta), the clubmosses and horsetails, the ferns (seedless Tracheophyta), and the gymnosperms and angiosperms (seed plants).  Only the last group the angiosperms have flowers.  Gymnosperms are all woody plants, mostly cone bearing evergreens such as hemlock, pine, spruce, eastern red cedar and bald cypress.  

At this time the overwhelming number of plant species on earth are flowering plants. Flowering plants are a recent group, not found in the fossil record before the Cretaceous time period.  Before the Cretaceous, our forests and meadows were made up of many different species of "lower" plants.  Today the lower plants have declined drastically in numbers of species.  Many of these species are known now only by the fossils they left behind when they became extinct.  There are several links below to web pages about fossil plants.  Many of these pages have excellent photographs of these extinct plants.   

The table below will allow you to get a reasonable idea of how the major groups of plants differ from one another.

Plant group   Leaves, Roots, Stems Vascular Tissue  Seeds Flowers
Mosses Liverworts   no no no no
Club mosses   Horsetails        yes yes no no
   Ferns   yes yes yes/no no
   Gymnosperms   yes yes yes no
Angiosperms   yes yes yes yes

Published 15 July 2001.                                                                                         Revised 26 July 2012

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falls of the Ohio State Park

Photographs of Fossils
West Virginia Plant Fossils - Table of Contents
Yale Peabody Museum The Mural, Carboniferous & Devonian
The Devonian
Devonian Age in Kentucky
Plant fossils in Kentucky
American Society of Plant Taxonomy
An On-Line Biology Book
Botany and Plant Pathology
American Museum of Natural History what's OLogy