Plants are a major group of life forms and include familiar organisms such as trees, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. About 350,000 species of plants, defined as seed plants, bryophytes, ferns and fern allies, are estimated to exist currently. more...
As of 2004, some 287,655 species had been identified, of which 258,650 are flowering and 15,000 bryophytes (see table below). Green plants, sometimes called metaphytes, obtain most of their energy from sunlight via a process called photosynthesis.
Aristotle divided all living things between plants (which generally do not move), and animals (which often are mobile to catch their food). In Linnaeus' system, these became the Kingdoms Vegetabilia (later Metaphyta or Plantae) and Animalia (also called Metazoa). Since then, it has become clear that the Plantae as originally defined included several unrelated groups, and the fungi and several groups of algae were removed to new kingdoms. However, these are still often considered plants in many contexts, both technical and popular.
When the name Plantae or plants is applied to a specific taxon, it is usually referring to one of three concepts. From smallest to largest in inclusiveness, these three groupings are:
- Land plants, also known as Embryophyta or Metaphyta. As the narrowest of plant categories, this is further delineated below.
- Green plants - also known as Viridiplantae, Viridiphyta or Chlorobionta - comprise the above Embryophytes, Charophyta (i.e., primitive stoneworts), and Chlorophyta (i.e., green algae such as sea lettuce). It is this clade which is mainly the subject of this article.
- Archaeplastida - also known as Plantae sensu lato, Plastida or Primoplantae - comprises the green plants above, as well as Rhodophyta (red algae) and Glaucophyta (simple glaucophyte algae). As the broadest plant clade, this comprises most of the eukaryotes that eons ago acquired their chloroplasts directly by engulfing cyanobacteria.
Informally, other creatures that carry out photosynthesis are called plants as well, but they do not constitute a formal taxon and represent species that are not closely related to true plants. There are around 375,000 species of plants, and each year more are found and described by science.
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