plant evolution

Jensen, Douglas P. doug.jensen at
Wed Aug 30 10:29:12 EST 2000

-----Original Message-----
From: Virginia.Berg at [mailto:Virginia.Berg at]
Sent: Wednesday, August 30, 2000 10:49 AM
To: plant-ed at
Subject: plant evolution

I received the following (solicited) message from a student in a non-majors'

"I was wondering if you could post some key sources that explain the
evolution of plants. I was just wondering where the scientists get their
information about plant evolution over hundreds of millions of years. Isn't
most of this information just speculation?  I would greatly appreciate it if
you could provide some more insight on this.  Thanks!"


Virginia Berg  (bergv at

Sources that tell all the information are tough, if not impossible, to find,
but I have a few suggestions to start:

1.  Try a paleobotany text.  Stewart and Rothwell (1993) do a good job of
showing the sequence of complexity through time.  One downfall is that many
of their figures are drawings rather than pictures of the actual fossils.
Taylor and Taylor (1993 or 1991, cannot recall) provide many pictures, but
the text is probably a little encyclopedic for your student.  A morphology
text, such as Gifford and Foster (1988), could fit the bill, provided it has
enough fossil information. Henry Andrews (1947) had an old paleobotany book
that could also be useful.

2.  You might want to try an upper-level botany book, such as Raven et al.
(1999 or other ed's), but their explanations tend to not have as much fossil
and stratigraphic information, and they could focus more on what we believe
rather than why we believe it, which is what your student wants.  

Andrews, H.N. 1947.  Ancient Plants and the World They Lived In.  Comstock
Press (part of Cornell University Press).  

Gifford, E.M. and A.S. Foster.  1988.  Morphology and Evolution of Vascular
Plants, 3ed.  W.H. Freeman and Company.

Raven, P.H., R.F. Evert, and S.E. Eichhorn.  1999.  Biology of Plants, 6ed.
W.H. Freeman and Company.  

Taylor, T.N and E.L. Taylor.  1993 or 1991.  The Biology and Evolution of
Fossil Plants.  Prentice Hall.

Stewart, W.N, and G.W. Rothwell.  1993.  Paleobotany and the Evolution of
Plants.  2ed.  Cambridge University Press.  

My thoughts are that these references can help you to give your student a
good picture of the sequence of fossils, correlated with their complexity
through time.  

good luck,

Douglas P. Jensen, Assistant Professor
Biology Department
Converse College
580 E. Main St.
Spartanburg, South Carolina 29302


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