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.


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

Chapter last updated 4 December 2020.


Associated materials:

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 access is made available by the publisher for items marked with a green star.

General botany

Bierhorst, D.W. 1971. Morphology of vascular plants. The Macmillan Company, New York.

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.

* Paleobotany [online lab, University of Alberta, author not credited; images with minimal text]:

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

Online exhibits

* Paleo garden exhibit, KU Natural History Museum:

Content usage

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Page last updated: 4 December 2020.


The material in this chapter is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant number DEB 1829376. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the view of the National Science Foundation.