I often post about non-ferns here, especially if I have particularly nice flowering plant photos I'd like to share, but today we shift to another lineage entirely: the often overlooked lycophytes! Lycophytes used to be called "fern allies" because the relationships between these two and the other groups of land plants weren't well understood. Now we know that lycophytes are the sister group to ferns plus angiosperms and gymnosperms, meaning that ferns are more closely related to conifers and flowering plants than they are to lycophytes. Lycophytes are equally related to all three, because they share a common ancestor with all of those three groups, before their three lineages diverged. Here's a family tree of the major land plant lineages that might clarify things:
On our field trip to Organ Pipe a few weeks ago, we were after lycophytes, particularly members of the genus Selaginella. These are often called "resurrection plants" because of their ability to dry down when water becomes scarce and then rapidly rehydrate when the rains return. Here's a great video, made by a fern colleague, Fernando Matos, showing a Selaginella "coming back to life":
The ones that we found haven't quite gotten to resurrecting yet... it's pretty dry out there right now. You might not notice them at first, because they're quite diminutive and rather crinkly and dried up, but once you know what to look for, you'll find that you're surrounded by a carpet of Selaginella in many of the rocky, desert-y areas around here. The lower photos here demonstrate that:
This is the type of habitat we found these guys in, rocky upslope and surrounded by various grasses, cacti, cholla, and other typical desert plants:
Your phylogeny is mislabeled; hornworts and liverworts need to be switched (pictures are correct).
Eep! Thanks Susan! They got flipped around when I was label-making in Illustrator :) Thanks for the catch! I've updated the figure in the post and it's now correct.
Selaginella - oldest living genus of vascular plants; now that's pretty cool.
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