The Botanical Review

, 65:188 | Cite as

Fossils and ferns in the resolution of land plant phylogeny

  • Gar W. Rothwell


Fifty-two taxa of living and extinct vascular plants were evaluated in an unconstrained numerical cladistic analysis using 101 morphological characters to simultaneously resolve the phylogenetic relationships of ferns sensu lato. Included in the analysis were ferns assignable to the Cladoxylales, Stauropteridales, Rhacophytales, Zygopteridales, Ophioglossales, Marattiales, Filicales, and Hydropteridales, as well as a rhyniophyte, a trimerophyte, equisetophytes, lignophytes, and the psilotophytesPsilotum andTmesipteris. The results placed ferns and fernlike plants in three distinct clades, indicating that ferns s.l. are a polyphyletic grade group. Fern clades consist of extinct stauropterids; extinct cladoxylaleans, rhacophytaleans, and zygopteridaleans; and eusporangiates and leptosporangiates with living and extinct species. Psilotophytes occur near the base of the tree rather than nesting with the Filicales, as hypothesized by some. These results place Ophioglossales as the sister group to Marattiales plus the leptosporangiates, supporting the hypothesis that Ophioglossales represent ferns rather than progymnosperms. These analyses are a first attempt, which includes extinct plants, to develop cladistic hypotheses for the overall topology of fern phylogeny and to lay the groundwork for more detailed analyses of relationships among the homosporous leptosporangiates.


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© The New York Botanical Garden 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gar W. Rothwell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental and Plant Biology and Department of Biological SciencesOhio UniversityAthensUSA

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