Archaeopteris was one of the first plants that grew as tall as a tree. Just like trees today, it could add water-transporting cells to the outer part of the trunk. That strengthened the trunk and enabled the plant to grow taller.
This early fern-like plant shows various orders of branching, with spine-like ornament on the major branches and terminal clusters of sporangia on the ultimate branchlets. It also developed webbing between some flattened terminal branchlets to produce leaf-like structures.
Jurinodendron was a clubmoss that could grow to large size because the outer part of its stem had a cork-like tissue that provided support. The ability to grow as tall as a tree evolved in several completely different plant groups.
On this fossil you can see the leafless stem and the kidney-shaped organs which held the spores. Protobarinophyton specieshad spores of two sizes, evidence of a very early stage in the evolution of male and female sex cells.
Several groups of plants developed spores in two different sizes. From one group of these early fern-like plants, seeds evolved.
The shrub Rellimia thomsonii was one of the first plants to add a new growth ring every year, just like modern woody shrubs.
They still had spores instead of seeds and pollen, and belonged to a group of plants that were predecessors of gymnosperms (plants with unprotected seeds).
Hyenia elegans was an early relative of ferns. It reproduced with spores, just like present-day ferns.
Parka speciesgrew on damp ground during the same time as the earliest vascular plants.They were about seven centimetres in diameter and had a pattern of cell-like compartments on their surfaces, which may have held the spores.
Parka fossils interest palaeobiologists because they strongly resemble some species of green algae that are thought to be closely related to the ancestors of land plants.
The dark cylindrical shapes you see on the fossil are from stems of simple early land plants. They grew to heights of up to 30 centimetres. The structures of the plants are so well preserved that individual cells are visible. In some of them, scientists using a microscope can study evidence of the first known interactions between animals, plants and fungi.
Sawdonia belonged to an extinct group of land plants that are related to the clubmoss family. They were among the first plants for which it could be seen that they grew by unfolding the tips of their branches.
Zosterophyllum rhenanum probably grew in shoreline waters. It is one of several leafless and low-growing early land plants that were closely related to present-day clubmosses.
It can sometimes be difficult to interpret fossils. At first, this fossil was described as an impression of an alga. But subsequent research found no traces of anything like leaves or spores, which should be included in a plant fossil. Today, scientists believe that it is an impression left by an invertebrate animal, not a plant of any kind.
The surface of this clubmoss was covered by many leaf scars. They show that, as the plant grew older and taller, the lower leaves fell off and new leaves grew higher up on the stem.
Archaeopteris was one of the first plants that had leaves with several veins. The leaves evolved from the stalk, probably by the development of webbing between many small branches into a larger, flattened leaf, according to the telome theory of leaf evolution.
Psilophyton burnotense was a slender-branched Early Devonian plant, slightly taller than its predecessors, but still lacking leaves or true roots.