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Seed plants
Temporal range: Famennian–Present
Scots pine,
Sycamore maple, Acer pseudoplatanus, a member of the Eudicots
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Spermatophytes
Extant Divisions
  • Phanerogamae
  • Phaenogamae

A spermatophyte (lit.'seed-bearing plants'; from

mosses, and algae

The term phanerogams or phanerogamae is derived from the

Ancient Greek κρυπτός (kruptós) 'hidden'), together with the suffix γαμέω
(gaméō), meaning "to marry". These terms distinguished those plants with hidden sexual organs (cryptogamae) from those with visible sexual organs (phanerogamae).


The extant spermatophytes form five divisions, the first four of which are classified as gymnosperms, plants that have unenclosed, "naked seeds":[1]: 172 

The fifth extant division is the flowering plants, also known as angiosperms or magnoliophytes, the largest and most diverse group of spermatophytes:

In addition to the five living taxa listed above, the fossil record contains evidence of many

taxa of seed plants, among those:

  • Pteridospermae, the so-called "seed ferns", were one of the earliest successful groups of land plants, and forests dominated by seed ferns were prevalent in the late Paleozoic
  • Glossopteris was the most prominent tree genus in the ancient southern supercontinent of Gondwana during the Permian period.

By the


Evolutionary history

Drawing of Runcaria megasporangium and cupule, resembling a seed without a solid seed coat

A whole genome duplication event in the ancestor of seed plants occurred about 319 million years ago.[2] This gave rise to a series of evolutionary changes that resulted in the origin of modern seed plants.

A middle

seed coat and a system to guide the pollen to the seed.[3]


Seed-bearing plants are a

vascular plants (tracheophytes).[4]

Internal phylogeny

The spermatophytes were traditionally divided into

angiosperms, or flowering plants, and gymnosperms, which includes the gnetophytes, cycads,[4] ginkgo, and conifers. Older morphological studies believed in a close relationship between the gnetophytes and the angiosperms,[5] in particular based on vessel elements. However, molecular studies (and some more recent morphological[6][7] and fossil[8] papers) have generally shown a clade of gymnosperms, with the gnetophytes in or near the conifers. For example, one common proposed set of relationships is known as the gne-pine hypothesis and looks like:[9][10][11]


(flowering plants)




Pinaceae (the pine family)


other conifers

However, the relationships between these groups should not be considered settled.[5][12]

Other classifications

Other classifications group all the seed plants in a single

division, with classes
for the five groups:

A more modern classification ranks these groups as separate divisions (sometimes under the Superdivision Spermatophyta):

Unassigned spermatophytes: