Plant Divisions (Phyla)

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A sample of plant diversity.

In botany, the equivalent of a Phylum is called a Division. The Kingdom Plantae is divided into 14 Divisions. A Division (pl. Phyla) is the largest formal major grouping within plant taxonomy below Kingdom.

This list is presented in alphabetical order, and not in any systematic/evolutionary arrangement.

Science is by no means static. There are arguments of all sizes and shapes about the taxonomy of the Plant Divisions. Other sources may combine or split these listed Divisions. However, at this time, the list presented here should stand in good stead for an introduction to the topic of plant diversity.

There are approximately 250,000 plant species that have been described by science.

This list tries to give the following information on each Division:

  • Division Name
  • A link to a subpage discussing that Phylum in more detail (if it yet exists)
  • Name Meaning (in English)
  • An English Common Name, where one is in regular use
  • Distinguishing characteristics of plants within the Division
  • An approximate number of species described within that Division. Since botany does not stand still, this number can change.

You can also see Introduction to Taxonomy for more on that topic.

Anthocerotophyta[edit | edit source]

Hornworts.

Anthocerotophyta

Name Meaning: Anthoceros-like plant

English Common Name: Hornworts

Major distinguishing characteristics: Horn-shaped sporophytes, no vascular system

Approximate number of species described: 100-300 or more

Bryophyta[edit | edit source]

Moss, a bryophyte.

Bryophyta

Name Meaning: Bryum-like plant, moss plant

English Common Name: Mosses

Major distinguishing characteristics: Persistent unbranched sporophytes, no vascular system

Approximate number of species described: 12,000

Charophyta[edit | edit source]

Chara, a Charophyte.

Charophyta

Name Meaning: Chara-like plant

English Common Name: Charophytes

Major distinguishing characteristics:

Approximate number of species described: 1,000

Chlorophyta[edit | edit source]

A Chlorophyte.

Chlorophyta

Name Meaning: Yellow-green plant

English Common Name: Chlorophytes

Major distinguishing characteristics:

Approximate number of species described: 7,000

Cycadophyta[edit | edit source]

Unidentified cycad in greenhouse.

Cycadophyta

Name Meaning: Cycas-like plant, palm-like plant

English Common Name: Cycads

Major distinguishing characteristics: Seeds, crown of compound leaves

Approximate number of species described: 100 - 200

Ginkgophyta[edit | edit source]

Gingko biloba.

Ginkgophyta

Name Meaning: Ginkgo-like plant

English Common Name: Ginkgo, maidenhair tree

Major distinguishing characteristics: Seeds not protected by fruit

Approximate number of species described: 1 living, abut 50 extinct

Glaucophyta[edit | edit source]

A glaucophyte.

Glaucophyta

Name Meaning: Blue-green plant

English Common Name: Glaucophytes

Major distinguishing characteristics:

Approximate number of species described: 13

Gnetophyta[edit | edit source]

Gnetum scandens.

Gnetophyta

Name Meaning: Gnetum-like plant

English Common Name: Gnetophytes

Major distinguishing characteristics: Seeds and woody vascular system with vessels

Approximate number of species described: 70

Lycopodiophyta (Lycophyta)[edit | edit source]

Clubmoss.

Lycopodiophyta (Lycophyta)

Name Meaning: Lycopodium-like plants, wolf plant

English Common Name: Clubmosses, spikemosses

Major distinguishing characteristics: Microphyll leaves, vascular system

Approximate number of species described: 1290 living

Magnoliophyta (Anthophyta)[edit | edit source]

Magnolia virginiana.

Magnoliophyta

Name Meaning: Magnolia-like plant

English Common Name: Flowering plants, angiosperms

Major distinguishing characteristics: Flowers and fruit, vascular system with vessels

Approximate number of species described: 300,000

Marchantiophyta (Hepatophyta)[edit | edit source]

Liverwort.

Marchantiophyta (Hepatophyta)

Name Meaning: Marchantia-like plant, liver plant

English Common Name: Liverworts

Major distinguishing characteristics: Ephemeral unbranched sporophytes, no vascular system

Approximate number of species described: 9,000

Pinophyta (Coniferophyta)[edit | edit source]

Taxus wallichiana, the Himalayan Yew, a conifer.

Pinophyta (Coniferophyta)

Name Meaning: Pinus-like plant, cone-bearing plant

English Common Name: Conifers

Major distinguishing characteristics: Cones containing seeds and wood composed of tracheids

Approximate number of species described: 629 living

Pteridophyta[edit | edit source]

Tree fern fronds and fiddlneck (growing young frond).

Pteridophyta

Name Meaning: Pteris-like plant, fern plant

English Common Name: ferns, horsetails

Major distinguishing characteristics: Prothallus gametophytes, vascular system

Approximate number of species described: 9,000

Other Resources[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]