Club mosses or lycophytes are flowerless and seedless plants in the family Lycopodiaceae and they belong to an ancient group of plants of the division Lycophyta. They are a cosmopolitan plant family and although they occur from tropical regions to the Arctic they are a small and inconspicuous group. Lycopodiella cernua (left) and Lycopodium fastigiatum (right). Photos by Jeremy Rolfe.
During the Carboniferous period (369-280 million years ago) clubmosses dominated the major habitats of the Earth and were forest-forming trees taller than 35 metres making them the oldest extant group of vascular plants.
Club mosses can be differentiated from vascular plants by their microphylls. These are a kind of leaf that has evolved independently from those of vascular plants. Microphylls have only a single unbranched strand of vascular tissue (vein) whereas the megaphylls of other leafy plants have multiple veins, usually branching one or more times within the leaf.
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