Section Summary

Gymnosperms are heterosporous seed plants that produce naked seeds. They appeared in the Paleozoic period and were the dominant plant life during the Mesozoic. Modern-day gymnosperms belong to four phyla. The largest phylum, Coniferophyta, is represented by conifers, the predominant plants at high altitude and latitude. Cycads (phylum Cycadophyta) resemble palm trees and grow in tropical climates. Ginkgophyta is represented today by a single species, Ginkgo biloba. The last phylum, Gnetophyta, is a diverse group of plants that produce vessel elements in their wood.