Before the flowering plants, the landscape was dominated with plants that looked like ferns for hundreds of millions of years. Today, their massive lineage have descendants that have almost the same characteristics as their ancient ancestors.

Unlike most other members of the Plant Kingdom, pteridophytes don’t reproduce through seeds; they reproduce through spores instead.
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Pteridophyta Classification

Pteridophyta can be classified into:


  1. Lycopodiidae (club mosses)
  2. Selaginellidae (quillworts, spike mosses)


  1. Psilotidae: Ophioglossales (e.g. grape ferns) and Psilotales (whisk ferns).
  2. Equisetidae (horsetails)
  3. Polypodiidae (leptosporangiate ferns, the most species-rich group)
  4. Marattiidae (marattioid ferns)

Pteridophyta Characteristics

1. Pteridophytes are the first true land plants:

It is speculated that life began in the oceans, and through millions of years of evolution, life slowly adapted on to dry land. And among the first of the plants to truly live on land were the Pteridophytes.

2. They are seedless, vascular cryptogams: 

Pteridophytes are seedless, and they procreate through spores. They don’t have conducting tissues for transportation of water and minerals. Instead, the water and minerals flow from the surface of the plant- cell to cell in the plant’s body. This is also one of the reasons why these plants need a constantly moist environment to survive.

3. They show true alternation of generations:

The sporophyte generation and the gametophyte generation are observed in Pteridophytes.

4. Sporophyte has true roots, stem and leaves:

They contain vascular tissues.

5. Spores developed in sporangia are homosporous or heterosporous:

The sporangium is the structures in which spores are formed. They are usually homosporous (meaning: one type of spore is produced) and are also heterosporous, (meaning: two kinds of spores are produced.)

Read More: Sporulation

6. Sporangia are produced in groups on sporophylls:

Leaves that bear the sporangia are termed as sporophylls.

7. Young leaves of sporophyte show circinate vernation:

The tip of the leaves tends to curl inwards to protect the vulnerable growing parts.

8. Sex organs multicellular and jacketed:

The male sex organs are called antheridia, while the female sex organs are called archegonia.

Life Cycle of Pteridophyta

Similar to the life cycle of seed plants, the pteridophytes also involves the alternation of generations in its life cycle. However, the pteridophytes differ from mosses and seed plants in that both generations are independent and free-living. The sexuality of pteridophytic gametophytes can be classified as follows:

  1. Dioicous: the individual gametophyte is either a male producing antheridia and sperm, or a female producing archegonia and egg cells.
  2. Monoicous: every individual gametophyte may produce both antheridia and archegonia and it can function both as a male as well as a female.
  3. Protandrous: the antheridia matures before the archegonia.
  4. Protogynous: the archegonia matures before the antheridia.

Pteridophyta Examples

Following are the important examples of Pteridophyta:

  • Whisk Fern
  • Flying Spider
  • Dicksonia sellowiana
  • Salvinia natans
  • Lophosoria quadripinnata
  • Equisetidae
  • Man fern
  • Silver fern


Pteridophyta is one of the older groups of plants present in the plant kingdom. They have been around far longer than the angiosperms, with earliest ever recorded fossil dating back to the Silurian Period. Furthermore, they are one of the very first “true” plants to adapt to life on land.

Primary characteristics of Pteridophytes are as follows: They are seedless, vascular plants that show true alternation of generations. Furthermore, the sporophyte has true roots, stem and leaves. Moreover, the spores developed in sporangia are either homosporous or heterosporous.

Life Cycle of Pteridophyta is almost the same as seed-bearing plants, where alternation of generations is observed. However, pteridophytes do not possess seeds; instead, they use spores.

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