Vascular plants, or Tracheophytes, make up the large majority of plants on our planet. Vascular plants are those that have evolved to develop a system that transports water and nutrients throughout the plant. Scientifically, the system must contain xylem and phloem to be considered vascular. Plants with roots, stems and leaves contain xylem and phloem and are considered vascular plants. Plants that do not have these things, such as mosses, are non-vascular plants.
Lycodiophyta have roots, stems and leaves. This very old line of plants has small, solid leaves with only one vein. This group of plants is often called the "club mosses" because they branch in all directions, often creeping along the ground. These plants do not produce flowers, according to the Hidden Forest website, and thus do not produce seeds. Instead, they reproduce through spores.
Equisetophyta, or "horse tails," is a relatively small group of vascular plants. There are only 15 species left in existence, according to the Estrella Mountain Community College. These tall, thin plants do resemble a horse's tail, with their small leaves held close to the stem and topped by a sheath that houses the spores. Like Lycodiophyta, these plants reproduce by spores and are very ancient.
This group of plants is even smaller than Equisetophyta. Most members are extinct. There are only three living species left. These plants are fern-like, branch often, and grow on rhizomes rather than roots. Although they are vascular plants, the vascular tissue does not extend into the leaves, but rather remains in a clump beneath leaf-like protrusions on the stems called "enations." Commonly called "whisk ferns," these plants also reproduce by spores.
These plants are usually simply called "ferns." There are about 11,000 species in this group, which reproduce with spores rather than seeds, and do not flower. They all have traditional roots, stems and leaves. Polypodiophyta can range from small, ground-hugging plants to towering tree-like ferns.
Cycadophyta, more commonly called "cyads," are fern-like in appearance. These tropical plants are seed producers and are desirable by home gardeners, collectors and landscapers for their distinctive appearances and rarity.
Ginkgophyta, or Ginkgo biloba, is the smallest of the phyla, with only one species still in existence. It is thought that even this species may be extinct in the wild. It is cultivated in its native China, however, and is often grown as an ornamental and for its medicinal properties. They are deciduous trees that reproduce by seed.
Pinophyta are coniferous, meaning they have woody stems or trunks and produce seed cones. This is a very large, extensive group of plants ranging from flowering shrubs to groundcover plants to the tallest trees in the world. This group contains about 550 species.
This group of plants has three extinct families, but four still-living genera. They grow as trees or shrubs and are often called "vessel-bearing gymnosperms." The plants are tropical in nature and often have very large, thick leaves. In Gnetophyta plants, a tube grows up from the eggs to the pollen when fertilization occurs, rather than the sperm moving down to the ovum.
This is by far the largest phylum, with nearly a quarter of a million species, according to Estrella Mountain Community College. These are usually simply called the "flowering plants" and range widely in size and appearance, from tiny, floating aquatic plants to towering trees. These plants have true flowers which contain either male reproductive organs, female reproductive organs, or both.