Multipanel figure showing nine pictures of living and extinct embryophytes.

Embryophytes (land plants)

Chapter by:

Elizabeth J. Hermsen, Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, New York, U.S.A.

This chapter first publicly shared on March XX, 2019. Last updated XXX.


Hermsen, E.J. 2019. Embryophytes (land plants). In: The Digital Encyclopedia of Ancient Life.


  1. Introduction to the embrophytes
    1. Overview of land plant relationships (coming soon!)
    2. Origin of land plants
    3. The Land Plant Life Cycle
    4. Spores (coming soon)
  2. Bryophytes (coming soon)
  3. Protracheophytes & early tracheophytes (coming soon)
  4. Lycophytes (coming soon)
  5. Trimerophytes (coming soon)
  6. Equisetophytes (coming soon)
  7. Eusporangiate ferns (coming soon)
  8. Leptosporangiate ferns (coming soon)
  9. Gymnosperms (coming soon)
  10. Angiosperms (flowering plants)

Feature image: Representative embryophytes. Top row, left to right: Thalloid liverworts (Marchantia); angiosperm wood (Quercus) showing growth rings; a horsetail cone (Equiestum sp.); a reconstruction of an early polysporangiophyte; and groundcedar, a modern lycophyte (Diphasiastrum digitatum). Bottom row, left to right: A fossil sycamore leaf (Platanus wyomingensis, Eocene, U.S.A.); ovulate (female) cones of bald cypress, a conifer (Taxodium distichum); cast of the base of an ancient tree stump (Eospermatopteris, Devonian, Gilboa, New York, U.S.A.); fiddlehead of a Christmas fern (Polystichum arostichoides). Credit: E.J. Hermsen (DEAL).


Further reading

Note: Free full text is made available by the publisher for items marked with a green star.

General botany

Esau, K. 1977. Anatomy of seed plants, 2nd. ed. John Wiley & Sons, New York.

Evert, R.F., and S.E. Eichhorn. 2013. Raven biology of plants, 8th ed. W.H. Freeman and Co., New York, New York.

Foster, A.S., and Gifford, E.M. 1974. Comparative morphology of vascular plants, 2nd ed. W.H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco.

Simpson, M.G. 2010. Plant systematics, 2nd ed. Academic Press, Burlington, Massachusetts.

General paleobotany

Stewart, W.N., and G.W. Rothwell. 1993. Paleobotany and the evolution of plants, 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press.

Taylor, T.N., E.L. Taylor, and M. Krings. 2009. Paleobotany, the Biology and Evolution of Fossil Plants, 2nd ed. Academic Press.

Paleobotany websites

* Arens, C. [later upated by N.C. Arens, C. Strömberg, and A. Thompson.] 1998. Virtual Paleobotany Lab. University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, California.

* Boyer, J. 2019. Plant evolution & paleobotany.

* Steur, H. 2019. Hans' paleobotany pages.

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Page last updated: 30 August 2019.