6. Classification of plants

How have living organisms been classified?

You have already studied the kingdoms Monera, Protista and Fungi of the ‘Five Kingdom’ classification system proposed by Robert Whittaker (1969) for the study of living organisms.

What are the hidden secrets of the Kingdom plantae which impart this green freshness to our surroundings? Just how much diversity is there in this Kingdom? Let us see!

Kingdom plantae

Basis for classification :

The presence or absence of organs is the first criterion for classification of plants. The presence or absence of separate conducting tissues for conduction of water and food is the next consideration for classification. Do the plants bear seeds? If they do then, whether the seeds are enclosed in a fruit or not is also an important criterion for classification. Finally, plants are grouped depending upon the number of cotyledons in the seeds.

At the higher levels of plant classification, different characteristics are considered for classification, e.g. depending upon the absence or presence of flowers, fruits and seeds, plants are classified as cryptogams or phanerogams. Depending upon whether seeds are enclosed within a fruit or not, phanerogams are classified as gymnosperms and angiosperms. Angiosperms are further classified as monocots or dicots depending upon the number of cotyledons in seeds.


Search for a pond with greenish water. Collect some of the green fibres from the water. Put the fibres in a Petri dish and wash them clean with water. Put one of the fibres in a drop of water on a glass slide and spread it out straight.

Put a cover-slip over the slide and observe under a compound microscope. Do you see the spirally arranged green thread-like chloroplasts in the cells in that straight fibre? This plant is known as Spirogyra.

Division I – Thallophyta

These plants grow mainly in water. This group of plants, which do not have specific parts like root-stem-leaves-flowers but are autotrophic due to the presence of chlorophyll, is called algae. Algae show great diversity. They may be unicellular or multicellular, and microscopic or large. Examples of algae are Spirogyra, Ulothrix, Ulva, Sargassum, etc. Some of these are found in fresh water while some are found in saline water. These plants usually have a soft and fibre-like body. Various types of fungi like yeasts and moulds which do not have chlorophyll are also included in this group.

Division II – Bryophyta

This group of plants is called the ‘amphibians’ of the plant kingdom because they grow in moist soil but need water for reproduction. These plants are thalloid, multicellular and autotrophic. They reproduce by spore formation.The structure of the plant body of bryophytes is flat, ribbon-like long, without true roots, stem and leaves. Instead, they have stem-like or leaf-like parts and root-like rhizoids. They do not have specific tissues for conduction of food and water. Examples are Moss (Funaria), Marchantia, Anthoceros, Riccia, etc.

Division III- Pteridophyta

Plants from this group have well[1]developed roots, stem and leaves and separate tissues for conduction of food and water. But, they do not bear flowers and fruits. They reproduce with the help of spores formed along the back or posterior surface of their leaves. Examples are ferns like Nephrolepis, Marsilea, Pteris, Adiantum, Equisetum, Selaginella, Lycopodium, etc.

These plants reproduce asexually by spore-formation and sexually by zygote formation. They have a well-developed conducting system


Plants which have special structures for reproduction and produce seeds are called phanerogams. In these plants, after the process of reproduction, seeds are formed which contain the embryo and stored food. During germination of the seed, the stored food is used for the initial growth of the embryo. Depending upon whether seeds are enclosed in a fruit or not, phanerogams are classified into gymnosperms and angiosperms

Division I – (Gymnosperms)

Observe all garden plants like Cycas, Christmas tree, Hibiscus, lily, etc. and compare them. Note the similarities and differences among them. Which differences did you notice between gymnosperms and angiosperms?

Gymnosperms are mostly evergreen, perennial and woody. Their stems are without branches. The leaves form a crown. These plants bear male and female flowers on different sporophylls of the same plant. Seeds of these plants do not have natural coverings, i.e. these plants do not form fruits and are therefore called gymnosperms. (gymnos: naked, sperms: seeds).

Examples Cycas, Picea (Christmas tree), Thuja (Morpankhi), Pinus (Deodar), etc

Division II- Angiosperms

The flowers these plants bear are their reproductive organs. Flowers develop into fruits and seeds are formed within fruits. Thus, these seeds are covered; hence, they are called angiosperms (angios: cover, sperms: seeds). The plants whose seeds can be divided into two equal halves or dicotyledons are called dicotyledonous plants and those whose seeds cannot be divided into equal parts are called monocotyledonous plants.