Vascular plants can be divided into two main groups: those that produce seed and those that do not. Most of the plants that produce seed are flowering plants, even if the flowers are not obvious or colorful. These include trees, flowers, shrubs, grasses and many other plants. Vascular plants that do not produce seed are the ferns and their close relatives.
These were the first vascular plants to develop approximately 350 to 400 million years ago, some 300 million years after algae first evolved into various land species. Within 100 million years, vascular plants evolved into forests of giant ferns up to 100 feet in height. Although the giant species are now extinct, modern ferns are little changed from the ancestors from which they evolved. Ferns produce spores instead of seeds. The spores develop into gametophytes which reproduce asexually to grow adult ferns, called sporophytes. Fern-like plants include horsetails, club mosses, ferns, spikemoss and quillwort.
Trees and shrubs fall into two groups, gymnosperms and angiosperms. Gymnosperms include the conifers (firs), cyads (palms), ginkgos (ginkgo biloba) and gnetophytes (ephedra). Gymnosperms produce seeds without flowers and date back 350 million years. About 140 million years ago, the flowering plants, classified as angiosperms, appeared. Both angiosperms and gymnosperms have evolutionary branches that include the trees present today.
From bamboo to Kentucky Blue Grass, grasses are found throughout the world. Typically they reproduce via both rhizomes and seeds. Many are clumping plants, which means they form colonies from a single parent plant. Some species are used as landscape specimens with spectacular flowers and seed heads. Others simply cover lawns to keep the soil from eroding away.
Whether annuals, biennials or perennials, flowers are a popular choice for landscape beds, border plantings or patio pots. Flowers, whether wild flowers, cut flowers or ones growing in your garden, are an example of evolution and, in many cases, man's attempts to improve on nature. All flowering plants are vascular plants.
Herbs and Vegetables
Plants combine water, carbon dioxide and the sun's energy along with a little bit of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium to make food for themselves. Some plants are experts at manufacturing excess food and storing it. People cultivate these plants for food. The fruits, seeds, stalks, leaves and tubers of many plants give people a variety of food to enjoy and sustain themselves. The evolution of vascular plants includes the numerous herbs and vegetables people grow for food and other uses.