BOT 360F - Families of Vascular Plants 

Vascular plants in a phylogenetic context

Supplementary notes for lecture on 13 September 2012


Green Plant phylogeny

The life cycle diagrammed below is another feature that, because it is common to all land plants, suggests that all land plants share a common ancestor.

  land plant life cycle

For recent discussions of morphological and other features supporting a common ancestor for both the green algae and the land plants (Embryophyta), see the following.

Lewis, L. A.& R. M. McCourt (2004). Green algae and the origin of land plants. American Journal of Botany 91(10): 1535-1536. [This article is available for free from the publisher.]

Niklas, K. J. & U. Kutschera (2010). The evolution of the land plant life cycle. New Phytologist 185(1): 27-41. [This article is available for free from the publisher.]

Renzaglia, K. S., R. J. Duff, D. L. Nickrent & D. J. Garbary (2000). Vegetative and reproductive innovations of early land plants: implications for a unified phylogeny. Philosphical Transactions of the Royal Society London 355: 769-793. [This article includes the illustrations of sperm ultrastructure shown in class.]


A familiar plant family: Fabaceae

The familiar fruits illustrated here all have the same basic construction and are called "legumes." All of the genera illustrated here, and many more, belong to the plant family Fabaceae, or the Leguminosae (an alternative name). It is quite common for plant families to share features like fruit construction, so much so that botanists can often recognize families just from their fruits ("Ye shall know them by their fruits." Matthew 7: 16). Now you can too, at least in this one case.

Pisum sativum L. - garden pea - These are the peas used by Gregor Mendel in his studies of inheritance.

snow pea fruit

Phaseolus vulgaris L. - romano bean - Also known as cranberry or borlotti beans.

romano bean fruit

Phaseolus vulgaris L. - wax bean - The fruit are eaten unripe, or the mature seeds are eaten.

wax bean fruit

Tamarindus indica L. - tamarind - The seeds are embedded in sour, slightly sweet pulp that is used for flavoring in South Asian cooking.

tamarind fruit

Arachis hypogaea L. - peanut - fruits mature underground, as a result of the growth of the flower stalk forcing the young fruit underground.


Gymnocladus dioica (L.) K. Koch - Kentucky coffee tree - A native species whose range just extends into Ontario. The fruit resembles that of tamarind (above) in being indehiscent, with the seeds embedded in pulp.

Gymnocladus fruit

| What are plant families? | How do we distinguish them? | How and why do we study them? | Selected vascular plant families of Ontario | Reading List | Course outline |

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