14.1 The Plant Kingdom
Land plants evolved traits that made it possible to colonize land and survive out of water. Adaptations to life on land include vascular tissues, roots, leaves, waxy cuticles, and a tough outer layer that protects the spores. Land plants include nonvascular plants and vascular plants. Vascular plants, which include seedless plants and plants with seeds, have apical meristems, and embryos with nutritional stores. All land plants share the following characteristics: alternation of generations, with the haploid plant called a gametophyte and the diploid plant called a sporophyte; formation of haploid spores in a sporangium; and formation of gametes in a gametangium.
14.2 Seedless Plants
Seedless nonvascular plants are small. The dominant stage of the life cycle is the gametophyte. Without a vascular system and roots, they absorb water and nutrients through all of their exposed surfaces. There are three main groups: the liverworts, the hornworts, and the mosses. They are collectively known as bryophytes.
Vascular systems consist of xylem tissue, which transports water and minerals, and phloem tissue, which transports sugars and proteins. With the vascular system, there appeared leaves—large photosynthetic organs—and roots to absorb water from the ground. The seedless vascular plants include club mosses, which are the most primitive; whisk ferns, which lost leaves and roots by reductive evolution; horsetails, and ferns.
14.3 Seed Plants: Gymnosperms
Gymnosperms are heterosporous seed plants that produce naked seeds. They appeared in the Carboniferous period (359–299 million years ago) and were the dominant plant life during the Mesozoic era (251–65.5 million years ago). Modern-day gymnosperms belong to four divisions. The division Coniferophyta—the conifers—are the predominant woody plants at high altitudes and latitudes. Cycads resemble palm trees and grow in tropical climates. Gingko biloba is the only species of the division Gingkophyta. The last division, the Gnetophytes, is a diverse group of species that produce vessel elements in their wood.
14.4 Seed Plants: Angiosperms
Angiosperms are the dominant form of plant life in most terrestrial ecosystems, comprising about 90 percent of all plant species. Most crop and ornamental plants are angiosperms. Their success results, in part, from two innovative structures: the flower and the fruit. Flowers are derived evolutionarily from modified leaves. The main parts of a flower are the sepals and petals, which protect the reproductive parts: the stamens and the carpels. The stamens produce the male gametes, which are pollen grains. The carpels contain the female gametes, which are the eggs inside ovaries. The walls of the ovary thicken after fertilization, ripening into fruit that can facilitate seed dispersal.
Angiosperms’ life cycles are dominated by the sporophyte stage. Double fertilization is an event unique to angiosperms. The flowering plants are divided into two main groups—the monocots and eudicots—according to the number of cotyledons in the seedlings. Basal angiosperms belong to a lineage older than monocots and eudicots.