Overview of Selaginellaceae
Selaginellaceae is a family of vascular plants that belong to the division Lycopodiophyta. It is commonly known as the spikemoss family, which includes around 750 species distributed in tropical and temperate regions worldwide. The family is divided into three genera, namely Selaginella, Lycopodiella, and Isoetes. Among these, Selaginella is the largest genus, consisting of over 700 species.
Taxonomy and Classification
The family Selaginellaceae was first formally described by Alphonse de Candolle in 1827. The family is classified under the order Selaginellales, which forms a part of the class Lycopodiopsida. The spikemosses are similar to the clubmosses (Lycopodiaceae), but they have smaller leaves and dichotomously branched stems. The sporangia of Selaginellaceae are also more complex compared to other plant families in the class.
The subfamilial classification of Selaginellaceae is still controversial and disputed among researchers. According to the molecular phylogenetic analysis, the family is divided into six subfamilies, namely Selaginelloideae, Lycopodielloideae, Heterostachyoides, Lycopodioides, Isoetopsidoideae, and Spinulumoideae. However, the definitive classification is yet to be established, and there is a need for further research based on morphological and molecular data.
Unique Characteristics and Features
One of the distinctive features of Selaginellaceae is the presence of heteromorphic spores. The family produces two types of spores, the larger megaspores, and the smaller microspores. The heterospory in Selaginellaceae is considered as an intermediate state between homospory (production of a single type of spore) and the advanced condition of heterospory found in seed plants.
Selaginellaceae also has unique structural features, such as the presence of ligules, axillary leaves, and sporophylls. The ligule is a small flap of tissue found at the base of the leaf that protects the developing sporangium. The axillary leaves are located at the base of the sporangia and resemble small scale-like structures. The sporophylls are specialized leaves that contain sporangia and are arranged into compact strobili or cones.
Furthermore, Selaginellaceae has the ability to tolerate extreme environmental conditions, such as drought and high salinity. This feature is attributed to the plant’s ability to produce dormant structures called desiccation-tolerant stages or “resurrection plants.” These structures enable the plant to survive in harsh environments and resume growth when favorable conditions return.
Distribution of the Selaginellaceae Family
The Selaginellaceae family is widely distributed throughout the world, with more than 700 species found in tropical and subtropical regions. The family belongs to the class Lycopodiopsida, which includes primitive vascular plants. The family is most diverse in the tropics, with the highest concentration of species found in Southeast Asia and the Americas. However, Selaginellaceae species can also be found in other regions, including Africa, Australia, and parts of Europe.
Habitat of the Selaginellaceae Family
Plants from the Selaginellaceae family can be found in a variety of habitats, including moist tropical forests, rainforests, and even deserts. They are well-adapted to growing in humid environments and can often be found growing on rocks, tree trunks, and other shaded areas. Some species can also grow in open areas, such as grasslands and meadows. Selaginellaceae plants can be terrestrial (growing on land) or epiphytic (growing on other plants).
Ecological Preferences and Adaptations of the Selaginellaceae Family
Selaginellaceae plants are well-adapted to growing in humid environments and have a number of adaptations that help them thrive in these conditions. One notable adaptation is the presence of microphylls, or small leaves, which help the plant conserve water and reduce the amount of water lost through transpiration. Selaginellaceae plants are also capable of surviving periods of drought by entering a state of dormancy. During this time, the plant loses its leaves and slows down its metabolic processes until conditions improve.
Some species of Selaginellaceae are also adapted to growing in low-light environments. These plants have evolved to be able to photosynthesize with minimal light, which allows them to grow in the understory of forests and other shaded areas. Additionally, Selaginellaceae species are able to reproduce both sexually and asexually. This allows them to adapt to changing environmental conditions and ensures their survival in a variety of habitats.
Morphology and StructureMembers of the Selaginellaceae family are small vascular plants that often resemble mosses or lichens. These plants are spore-producing, heterosporous, and possess small leaves that are arranged in an alternate pattern along the stem. Most species of Selaginellaceae are found in tropical regions, although some grow in temperate climates. One distinctive feature of the Selaginellaceae is the presence of a vascular system for the transportation of water, minerals, and nutrients within the plant. This system consists of xylem and phloem tissues, which run longitudinally through the stem. The xylem transports water and minerals from the roots to the rest of the plant, while the phloem transports sugars and other nutrients from the photosynthetic tissue to other parts of the plant.
Anatomical AdaptationsThe small size of Selaginellaceae plants has led to certain anatomical adaptations that ensure their survival. One such adaptation is the thick, waxy cuticle on the leaves, which helps to retain moisture and prevent desiccation. In addition, the leaves have a needle-like or scale-like shape, which reduces water loss through transpiration. Another adaptation that aids in water retention is the presence of specialized cells called hydathodes. These structures release small droplets of water, which can be absorbed by the roots and transported to other parts of the plant.
Variations in Leaf Shapes and Flower StructuresAlthough the leaves of most Selaginellaceae species are needle-like or scale-like, there are some variations in leaf shape. For example, some species have leaves that are flattened and fan-shaped. The leaves of some species are also arranged in a distinctive whorled pattern around the stem. Selaginellaceae plants do not have true flowers, but they do produce structures called sporangia, which contain spores that give rise to the next generation of plants. These sporangia are found in clusters on the undersides of the leaves, and they can be quite colorful and attractive. Some species of Selaginellaceae also produce structures called strobili, which are cone-like structures that contain the sporangia. Overall, the Selaginellaceae family is a diverse group of small, spore-producing vascular plants with adaptations that allow them to survive in a range of environments. Their unique anatomical features and variations in leaf shapes and flower structures make them an interesting group for study.
Reproductive Strategies of Selaginellaceae Plants
Plants in the Selaginellaceae family reproduce primarily through spores, with a few species also capable of sexual reproduction through the production of male and female cones. The spores are produced in sporangia, which are small structures located on the undersides of specialized leaves called sporophylls.
Mechanisms of Reproduction
The spores produced by Selaginellaceae plants are dispersed through the air and can give rise to new plants when conditions are favorable. These plants develop into gametophytes, which produce male and female gametes. The male gametes are non-motile and are carried by the wind to reach the female gametes, which are located on separate plants.
In some species, sexual reproduction occurs through the production of male and female cones. These cones are produced on separate plants and contain reproductive structures that give rise to male and female gametes. The male cones produce pollen, which is carried by the wind to reach the female cones and fertilize the eggs.
Flowering Patterns and Pollination Strategies
Plants in the Selaginellaceae family do not produce flowers, instead relying on spores or cones to reproduce. The gametophyte stage produces tiny male and female cones that are usually not visible to the naked eye.
Pollination occurs through wind and is not dependent on animal pollinators. The male gametes are carried by the wind to reach the female gametes, which are located on separate plants. In some species that produce cones, pollen is also carried by the wind to reach the female cones.
Seed Dispersal and Adaptations
After fertilization, Selaginellaceae plants produce tiny seeds that are enclosed in protective capsules. These capsules can be adapted for a variety of seed dispersal methods, including wind, water, and animals.
Some species have capsules that open when they become wet, allowing the seeds inside to be dispersed by rain or flowing water. Others have capsules that are adapted to stick to animal fur or feathers and can be dispersed in this way.
The ability of Selaginellaceae plants to reproduce through spores and sexual reproduction, along with their diverse seed dispersal mechanisms, allows for a high level of adaptability and success in a variety of environments.
Economic Importance of Selaginellaceae Family
The Selaginellaceae family comprises over 750 species of vascular of plants that are predominantly found in tropical and subtropical regions. Some species of Selaginellaceae have economic value to humans as a result of their medicinal, culinary, or industrial applications.
Medicine: Selaginella tamariscina contains bioactive compounds that have been found to possess anti-tumor, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Several studies have also suggested that Selaginella species could have potential therapeutic applications in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, liver diseases, and other diseases.
Culinary: One species, Selaginella lepidophylla, also known as the "resurrection plant," has leaves that curl up into a tight ball when it was and unfurl when water is added. The plant is commonly sold as a novelty item, and in some cultures, it is used as a food ingredient.
Industry: Some species of Selaginellaceae are used for their high water-holding capacity and as a soil conditioner. They are also used in the production of traditional plant-based remedies, agricultural, and horticultural products for their antifungal and anti-insect properties.
Ecological Importance of Selaginellaceae Family
The Selaginellaceae family plays an essential role in the ecology of many ecosystems, contributing to soil formation, nutrient cycling, and food webs.
Soil Formation: Many Selaginellaceae species are pioneer species, which means they play a crucial role in the early stages of soil formation by breaking down rocks and minerals to create the necessary conditions for other organisms to colonize the area.
Nutrient Cycling: Selaginellaceae species also contribute to nutrient cycling by taking up nutrients from the soil and making them available to other organisms when they die and decompose.
Food Webs: Many species of Selaginellaceae are food sources for a wide range of herbivores, including insects and small mammals.
Conservation Status of Selaginellaceae Family
Despite the ecological and economic importance of the Selaginellaceae family, many species are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss, over-collection, and climate change
Efforts to conserve Selaginellaceae species are ongoing, and several organizations are working towards preserving their habitats and populations. Additionally, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) regulates the international trade of seven Selaginellaceae species.
- Lycopodium rupestre L. - >>selaginella Rupestris
- Selaginella acanthonota Underwood - Spiny Spikemoss
- Selaginella albonitens Spring - >>selaginella Tenella
- Selaginella apoda (L.) Spring - Meadow Spikemoss
- Selaginella apus Spring - >>selaginella Apoda
- Selaginella arbuscula (Kaulfuss) Spring - Dwarf Spikemoss
- Selaginella arenicola Underwood - Sand Spikemoss
- Selaginella arenicola Underwood ssp. acanthonota (Underwood) R. Tryon - >>selaginella Acanthonota
- Selaginella arenicola Underwood ssp. arenicola - Sand Spikemoss
- Selaginella arenicola Underwood ssp. riddellii (Van Eselt.) R. Tryon - Riddell's Spikemoss
- Selaginella arenicola Underwood var. riddellii (Van Eselt.) Waterfall - >>selaginella Arenicola Ssp. Riddellii
- Selaginella arizonica Maxon - Arizona Spikemoss
- Selaginella armata Baker - Armored Spikemoss
- Selaginella asprella Maxon - Bluish Spikemoss
- Selaginella Beauv. - Spikemoss
- Selaginella bigelovii Underwood - Bushy Spikemoss
- Selaginella braunii Baker - Braun's Spikemoss
- Selaginella cinerascens A.A. Eat. - Mesa Spikemoss
- Selaginella cordifolia (Desv. ex Poir.) Spring - Heartleaf Spikemoss
- Selaginella deflexa Brack. - Deflexed Spikemoss
- Selaginella densa Rydb. - Lesser Spikemoss
- Selaginella densa Rydb. var. densa - Lesser Spikemoss
- Selaginella densa Rydb. var. scopulorum (Maxon) R. Tryon - Rocky Mountain Spikemoss
- Selaginella densa Rydb. var. standleyi (Maxon) R. Tryon - Standley's Spikemoss
- Selaginella douglasii (Hook. & Grev.) Spring - Douglas' Spikemoss
- Selaginella eatonii Hieron. ex Small - Eaton's Spikemoss
- Selaginella eclipes Buck - Hidden Spikemoss
- Selaginella engelmannii Hieron. - >>selaginella Densa Var. Densa
- Selaginella engelmannii Hieron. var. scopulorum (Maxon) C.F. Reed - >>selaginella Densa Var. Scopulorum
- Selaginella engelmannii Hieron. var. standleyi (Maxon) C.F. Reed - >>selaginella Densa Var. Standleyi
- Selaginella eremophila Maxon - Desert Spikemoss
- Selaginella flabellata (L.) Spring - Fan Spikemoss
- Selaginella hansenii Hieron. - Hansen's Spikemoss
- Selaginella kraussiana (Kunze) A. Braun - Krauss' Spikemoss
- Selaginella krugii Hieron. - Krug's Spikemoss
- Selaginella laxifolia Baker - Limpleaf Spikemoss
- Selaginella lepidophylla (Hook. & Grev.) Spring - Flower Of Stone
- Selaginella leucobryoides Maxon - Mojave Spikemoss
- Selaginella ludoviciana (A. Braun) A. Braun - Gulf Spikemoss
- Selaginella menziesii (Hook. & Grev.) Spring - Menzies' Spikemoss
- Selaginella mutica D.C. Eat. ex Underwood - Bluntleaf Spikemoss
- Selaginella mutica D.C. Eat. ex Underwood var. limitanea Weatherby - Bluntleaf Spikemoss
- Selaginella mutica D.C. Eat. ex Underwood var. mutica - Bluntleaf Spikemoss
- Selaginella mutica D.C. Eat. ex Underwood var. texana Weatherby - >>selaginella Mutica Var. Limitanea
- Selaginella oregana D.C. Eat. - Oregon Spikemoss
- Selaginella ovifolia Baker - Oval-leaf Spikemoss
- Selaginella parvula Hbd. - >>selaginella Sandvicensis
- Selaginella peruviana (Milde) Hieron. - Peruvian Spikemoss
- Selaginella pilifera A. Braun - Resurrection Plant
- Selaginella pilifera A. Braun var. pringlei (Baker) Morton - >>selaginella Pilifera
- Selaginella plagiochila sensu Krug & Urban, non Baker - >>selaginella Armata
- Selaginella plana (Desv. ex Poir.) Hieron. - Asian Spikemoss
- Selaginella plumosa (L.) K. Presl - Plumed Spikemoss
- Selaginella portoricensis A. Braun - >>selaginella Substipitata
- Selaginella riddellii Van Eselt. - >>selaginella Arenicola Ssp. Riddellii
- Selaginella rupestris (L.) Spring - Northern Selaginella
- Selaginella rupincola Underwood - Rockloving Spikemoss
- Selaginella sandvicensis Baker - Hawai'i Spikemoss
- Selaginella scopulorum Maxon - >>selaginella Densa Var. Scopulorum
- Selaginella selaginoides (L.) Beauv. ex Mart. & Schrank - Club Spikemoss
- Selaginella sheldonii Maxon - >>selaginella Peruviana
- Selaginella sibirica (Milde) Hieron. - Siberian Spikemoss
- Selaginella sintenisii Hieron. - >>selaginella Subcaulescens
- Selaginella standleyi Maxon - >>selaginella Densa Var. Standleyi
- Selaginella stolonifera (Sw.) Spring - >>selaginella Plumosa
- Selaginella subcaulescens Baker - Handsome Spikemoss
- Selaginella substipitata Spring - Stalked Spikemoss
- Selaginella tamariscina
- Selaginella tenella (Beauv.) Spring - Delicate Spikemoss
- Selaginella tortipila A. Braun - Twistedhair Spikemoss
- Selaginella uncinata (Desv. ex Poir.) Spring - Blue Spikemoss
- Selaginella underwoodii Hieron. - Underwood's Spikemoss
- Selaginella underwoodii Hieron. var. dolichotricha Weatherby - >>selaginella Underwoodii
- Selaginella utahensis Flowers - Utah Spikemoss
- Selaginella viridissima Weatherby - Green Spikemoss
- Selaginella wallacei Hieron. - Wallace's Spikemoss
- Selaginella watsonii Underwood - Watson's Spikemoss
- Selaginella weatherbiana R. Tryon - Weatherby's Spikemoss
- Selaginella willdenowii (Desv. ex Poir.) Baker - Willdenow's Spikemoss
- Selaginella wrightii Hieron. - Wright's Spikemoss
- Selaginella ×neomexicana Maxon (pro sp.)