Plants

Kingdom - Plantae

Multicellular lifeforms that covert energy from sunlight into carbohydrates through the process of photosynthesis. Members of the Plantae Kingdom also have unique cellular features such as chloroplasts, used for gathering sunlight, and rigid structure surrounding the cell membrane called a cell wall.

The Plantae Kingdom is broken down into five Domains – Thallophyta, Bryophyta, Pteridophyta, Gymnosperms, and Angiosperms.

Byrophytaes

Dicranum scoparium (Credit: Moss Mountain)
Common Liverwort (Credit: Canadian Homestead)

These were the earliest part of the Plantae Kingdom to move from the oceans to dry land. Byrophytes are non-vascular plants meaning they do not have structures like roots or stems to transport water and nutrients throughout. They instead absorb water from their surroundings. These plants can only grow in very damp conditions. They do not produce seeds, instead they create spores that are dispersed but wind, rain, or by animal to other locations. Mosses and liverworts are examples of Byrophytes

Ferns

Fern (Credit Sanjay Ach)
Horsetail (Credit: SplashPlants)

Tracheophyta is a sub-kingdom under Plantae that includes all vascular plants, meaning they have a system of structures that allow them to collect water and nutrients to transport to other regions. Tracheophyta includes plants that flower and seed, but we will talk about those more in the next section. Vascular plants consist of three main organs: roots, stems, and leaves. Most of the water and nutrients are drawn up through the roots, while the leaves collect the energy from the sun to use in photosynthesis, and the stems hold the leaves up and out to reach the sunlight. Ferns are and their relatives differ from later plant evolutions because they still rely on spores for reproduction. All types of ferns, lycophytes, and horsetails are part of this plant group.

Gymnosperms

Cedar tree (Credit: San Diego Zoo)
White-haired Cycad (Credit: In Defense of Plants)

Gymnosperms are a large group of woody vascular plant that have seeds but never produce flowers. Their seed are often called “naked” because they are open to the elements, unlike the seeds within fruit. Most of these plants product pine cones which open up to release spores, like the ferns, but these are carried by the wind to other pine cones for pollination.

Members of this group include the largest, tallest, and oldest organisms on Earth. For a long time gymnosperms were the dominant plant life, but the wide diversification of   angiosperms, flowering plants, has given them an edge. Gymnosperms still dominate the cold and dry regions due to the wax-like cuticle on their needles protects them from the condition. Gymnosperms include the many types of coniferous trees, pines, cycads (palm-like shrubs), and the ginkgo tree.

Fun Fact: There is only one solitary species of ginkgo tree in the world. It is native to China but has spread throughout the world due to its popularity among horticulturists and amateur gardeners.

Angiosperms

Venus Fly Trap (Credit: A. Van Haeften)
Alpine Wildflower Diversity (Credit: J. Boyer, 2018)

Angiosperms are plants that produce flowers. They are still vascular seed plants but their seeds germinate inside a protected ovary inside the flower or fruit. They are the largest group of organisms within the Plantae kingdom and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. There are two main types, woody and herbaceous. Woody angiosperms include fruit trees and some flowering shrubs. Herbaceous angiosperms include vegetables, grains, grasses, waterlilies, carnivorous plants, orchids, hyacinths, and all species of flowers.