Plant Types

Written by Jennifer Geer
Published: May 5, 2023
Image Credit © Bilalstock/


All plants belong to the kingdom Plantae. Within this kingdom, plants are in two types: nonvascular and vascular. Within the vascular category, plants are further divided into spore-producing and seed-producing, while all nonvascular plants are spore-producing.

Beautiful Bright Green moss grown up cover the rough stones and on the floor in the forest. Show with macro view. Rocks full of the moss texture in nature for wallpaper.

Mosses are nonvascular, meaning they do not have a vascular system.



Plants vary in many ways, including physical appearance, structure, habitats, and nutrient requirements. It’s estimated there are 320,000 plant species on Earth. With this many different types of plants, researchers need to find ways to organize them for studying botany.

Plants are grouped into two major types: nonvascular and vascular.

  • Nonvascular plants (bryophytes), including mosses and hornworts, do not have a vascular system. These were the first type of plants to evolve on Earth. 
  • Vascular plants (tracheophytes) have a vascular system (a system of tubes that connect all parts of the roots, plants, shoots, and leaves.)
Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum).

Ferns are vascular plants that produce spores.


Plant Types (Nonvascular versus Vascular)

  • Nonvascular Plants
    • Moss, liverworts, and hornworts (bryophytes)
  • Vascular Plants
    • Spore Producers
      • Ferns
    • Seed Producers
      • Flowering (angiosperms)
      • Non-flowering (gymnosperms)

Characteristics of Nonvascular Plant Types (Bryophytes)

Nonvascular plants are bryophytes. These are plants that do not have a vascular structure. They are the first type of plants to have evolved in the world. Scientists have found evidence of liverworts appearing in the fossil record around 470 million years ago.

Nonvascular plants reproduce by spores that are dispersed by the wind. This is in contrast to seed-producing plants in which seeds are enclosed in a fruit.

Most nonvascular plants are small. They are not anchored to the ground with roots. Instead, they have hair-like rhizoids which keep them grounded and help them absorb water and nutrients. Bryophytes must live in moist habitats because rhizoids are not as efficient as a vascular root system at absorbing water.

A close-up of Marchantia, a species in the genus of liverworts moss

Scientists have found evidence of liverworts appearing in the fossil record around 470 million years ago.


Three Types of Nonvascular Plants

  • Hornworts are small plants that live in warm, moist habitats such as rainforests and along waterways. They get their name from their hornlike spore-bearing stalk called a sporophyte.
  • Liverworts, like hornworts, also live in damp environments and reproduce by spores.
  • Mosses are rootless spore-producing plants found in various types of habitats. Moss thrives in wet conditions.

Characteristics of Vascular Plants

Vascular plants comprise a diverse group of around 260,000 different species. Vascular plants can grow much larger than nonvascular types thanks to their system of tubes (roots, stems, and leaves) that connect all parts of the plants. Additionally, this system transports water and nutrients efficiently through two separate transport systems, the xylem, and phloem.

Vascular plants consist of a root system and a shoot system. The roots support the plant below the ground. The shoot system is made up of leaves and stems.

There are two types of vascular plants, which include spore producers and seed producers

flowering verbena plant

The verbena plant is a seed producing vascular plant.


Examples of Spore-Producing Vascular Plants

Vascular plants, also called pteridophytes, produce spores and they include:

  • ferns (tongue ferns, water ferns, tree ferns, bracken ferns)
  • club moss
  • spikemoss
  • horsetail
  • scouring rushes

Characteristics of Seed-Producing Vascular Plants

Seed-producing plants contain two types: those with flowers and those without. Angiosperms, or flowering plants, have seeds enclosed within a fruit. In contrast, gymnosperms, or non-flowering plants, have naked (or unenclosed) seeds on the surface of their leaves.

Although gymnosperms evolved on Earth several hundred million years before flowering plants appeared, angiosperms are now more abundant and diverse. Further, flowering plants have a more specialized seed that develops inside the ovary of a flower protected by fruit. With the emergence of flowers came the importance of pollinating insects, which helped increase the diversity of angiosperms.

Both loblolly and longleaf pine trees are coniferous.

©Oleksandr Filatov/

Gymnosperms (Non-Flowering) Examples

Gymnosperms can be divided into four of the following groups:

  • Conifers are cone-bearing evergreen trees and shrubs such as cedars, firs, pines, redwoods, spruces, and yews.
  • Cycads are an ancient group of woody plants that existed during the Jurassic period.
  • Gnetophytes are trees, shrubs, creepers, and vines. 
  • Ginkgos are large, woody trees native to south-central and southeast ChinaGingko trees are sometimes called “living fossils” because the tree has existed for hundreds of millions of years.

Angiosperms (Flowering) Examples

Angiosperms are a diverse group that includes many different types such as:

(Narcissus) Loth Lorien

Daffodils are flower producing or angiosperms.

©Sergey V Kalyakin/

Types of Plants Based on Life Cycle

Another way to categorize plants is based on their life cycles. For example, plants can continue to grow for years, or they may have a short life span of only a few weeks. 

Plant types based on life cycle include:

  • Annual plants only live for a year or less such as growing crops (peas, watermelontomatoes, maize.)
  • Biennials take two years to complete their cycle of growth. These include carrotsdillpotatoes, and hollyhocks.
  • Perennials have the longest life span and can grow for years. These include hostas, daylilies, oregano, and strawberries.
  • Ephemeral plants only live for a few weeks or less and include bloodroot, red trillium, and Virginia bluebells. Spring ephemerals are perennial plants that emerge early in the spring and die back to their underground parts in a few weeks or less.

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About the Author

Jennifer Geer is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on animals, news topics, travel, and weather. Jennifer holds a Master's Degree from the University of Tulsa, and she has been researching and writing about news topics and animals for over four years. A resident of Illinois, Jennifer enjoys hiking, gardening, and caring for her three pugs.