In the previous chapter, we looked at the broad classification of living
organisms under the system proposed by Whittaker (1969) wherein he
suggested the Five Kingdom classification viz. Monera, Protista, Fungi,
Animalia and Plantae. In this chapter, we will deal in detail with further
classification within Kingdom Plantae popularly known as the ‘plant
We must stress here that our understanding of the plant kingdom
has changed over time. Fungi, and members of the Monera and Protista
having cell walls have now been excluded from Plantae though earlier
classifications placed them in the same kingdom. So, the cyanobacteria
that are also referred to as blue green algae are not ‘algae’ any more. In
this chapter, we will describe Algae, Bryophytes, Pteridophytes,
Gymnosperms and Angiosperms under Plantae .
Let us also look at classification within angiosperms to understand
some of the concerns that influenced the classification systems. The
earliest systems of classification used only gross superficial morphological
characters such as habit, colour, number and shape of leaves, etc. They
were based mainly on vegetative characters or on the androecium
structure (system given by Linnaeus). Such systems were artificial; they
separated the closely related species since they were based on a few
characteristics. Also, the artificial systems gave equal weightage to
vegetative and sexual characteristics; this is not acceptable since we know
that often the vegetative characters are more easily affected by
environment. As against this, natural classification systems developed,
which were based on natural affinities among the organisms and consider,
3.1 Algae
3.2 Bryophytes
3.3 Pteridophytes
3.4 Gymnosperms
3.5 Angiosperms
3.6 Plant Life Cycles
and Alternation
of Generations
not only the external features, but also internal features, like ultra-
structure, anatomy, embryology and phytochemistry. Such a
classification for flowering plants was given by George Bentham and
Joseph Dalton Hooker.
At present phylogenetic classification systems based on
evolutionary relationships between the various organisms are acceptable.
This assumes that organisms belonging to the same taxa have a common
ancestor. We now use information from many other sources too to help
resolve difficulties in classification. These become more important when
there is no supporting fossil evidence. Numerical Taxonomy which is
now easily carried out using computers is based on all observable
characteristics. Number and codes are assigned to all the characters and
the data are then processed. In this way each character is given equal
importance and at the same time hundreds of characters can be
considered. Cytotaxonomy that is based on cytological information like
chromosome number, structure, behaviour and chemotaxonomy that
uses the chemical constituents of the plant to resolve confusions, are also
used by taxonomists these days.
Algae are chlorophyll-bearing, simple, thalloid, autotrophic and largely
aquatic (both fresh water and marine) organisms. They occur in a
variety of other habitats: moist stones, soils and wood. Some of them
also occur in association with fungi (lichen) and animals (e.g., on sloth
The form and size of algae is highly variable, ranging from colonial
forms like Volvox and the filamentous forms like Ulothrix and Spirogyra
(Figure 3.1). A few of the marine forms such as kelps, form massive plant
The algae reproduce by vegetative, asexual and sexual methods.
Vegetative reproduction is by fragmentation. Each fragment develops into
a thallus. Asexual reproduction is by the production of different types of
spores, the most common being the zoospores
. They are flagellated
(motile) and on germination gives rise to new plants. Sexual reproduction
takes place through fusion of two gametes. These gametes can be
flagellated and similar in size (as in Ulothrix) or non-flagellated (non-motile)
but similar in size (as in Spirogyra). Such reproduction is called
isogamous. Fusion of two gametes dissimilar in size, as in species of
Eudorina is termed as anisogamous. Fusion between one large, non-
motile (static) female gamete and a smaller, motile male gamete is termed
oogamous, e.g., Volvox, Fucus.