Selaginellaceae Plant Family

About the Selaginellaceae or Spike Moss Family

Selaginellaceae is a family of vascular plants that belongs to the division Lycopodiophyta. They are commonly known as spikemosses, and differ from other moss- plants by their ability to grow in more extreme environments and tolerate long periods of drought. The family consists of over 750 species that are found throughout the world, with the highest diversity occurring in tropical regions. Selaginellaceae play an important role in ecosystems, providing habitats for small animals and decomposers, as well as contributing to soil formation processes. Their unique anatomical features also make them popular subjects for scientific research and study.

Taxonomy and Classification

Selaginellaceae is a family of vascular plants belonging to the order Selaginellales, class Lycopodiopsida, division Lycopodiophyta. The family includes around 750 species that are widely distributed throughout the world, with many found in tropical regions. Selaginellaceae is divided into two subfamilies: Selaginelloideae and Lycopodielloideae.

The genus Selaginella is the largest within the family, with over 700 species, followed by Lycopodiella with about 50 species. While other genera such as Heterostachys, Pecluma, and Stachygynandrum only contain a few species each.

Selaginellaceae shares similarities with other families in the Lycopodiophyta division, such as Lycopodiaceae and Isoetaceae, but can be distinguished by their unique anatomy, particularly the structure of their leaves and sporangia. These anatomical features make Selaginellaceae an interesting group for scientific study and research.

Morphology and Characteristics

Selaginellaceae, commonly known as spikemosses, are small, creeping or upright plants that resemble mosses in appearance. They have simple leaves that are arranged in a spiral fashion and are generally less than 1 cm long. The leaves are typically scale- with a pointed tip, and overlap along the stem, giving the plant a compact, dense appearance.

One of the most distinctive features of Selaginellaceae is their heterospory. This means they produce two different types of spores: microspores, which give rise to male gametophytes, and megaspores, which give rise to female gametophytes. This reproductive strategy is similar to that of seed plants and is one of the reasons why Selaginellaceae are considered to be evolutionary intermediates between mosses and seed plants.

Another unique characteristic of Selaginellaceae is their ability to survive in extreme environmental conditions. Many species can tolerate long periods of drought by entering a state of dormancy, during which they conserve energy and water.

In terms of growth habit, Selaginellaceae can be either creeping or erect, depending on the species. Some species, such as Selaginella lepidophylla, also known as the resurrection plant, can curl up into a ball when dry and unfurl when water is available again. This adaptation helps the plant to survive in arid environments where water availability is limited.

Distribution and Habitat

Selaginellaceae is a cosmopolitan family of vascular plants, with species found throughout the world. They are most diverse in tropical regions, where they can be found growing in a variety of habitats, including moist forests, rock crevices, and riverbanks. Some species also occur in temperate regions, such as Selaginella apoda, which is found in North America.

In general, Selaginellaceae prefer warm, humid environments with high rainfall, but some species have adapted to more extreme environmental conditions such as drought and temperature extremes. For example, the resurrection plant (Selaginella lepidophylla) is able to survive in hot, arid environments by curling up into a ball and going dormant during periods of water scarcity.

The distribution of Selaginellaceae is influenced by a range of factors, including soil type, altitude, and human activity. Some species, such as Selaginella helvetica, are rare and endangered due to habitat loss and fragmentation caused by human activities such as agriculture and urbanization.

Economic and Ecological Importance

Selaginellaceae is an important family of vascular plants, with ecological and economic significance. Ecologically, they play an important role in ecosystems as habitat for small animals and decomposers, and contribute to soil formation processes.

Economically, Selaginellaceae is a source of various products such as ornamental plants, traditional medicine, and food. Some species are grown as houseplants or used in landscaping due to their attractive foliage and low maintenance requirements. In traditional medicine, some species are used to treat ailments such as digestive disorders, fever, and inflammation.

Research on Selaginellaceae has also yielded important insights into the evolution of land plants, including the development of heterospory and other reproductive strategies. Selaginellaceae also have unique anatomical features that make them a popular subject for scientific study.

Conservation efforts are needed to protect rare and endangered Selaginellaceae species from habitat loss and fragmentation caused by human activities such as agriculture and urbanization. These conservation efforts can help ensure the continued ecological and economic importance of this diverse and interesting family of plants.

Notable Species

Selaginellaceae is a diverse family of plants, with over 750 species that exhibit unique characteristics and adaptations. Here are a few notable species from the family:

  1. Selaginella lepidophylla (resurrection plant): This remarkable species can survive in extreme environments where water is scarce by curling up into a ball and going dormant until water is available again. This adaptation allows it to tolerate long periods of drought and makes it a popular subject for scientific study.

  2. Selaginella martensii (peacock spikemoss): This species is known for its attractive, iridescent blue- foliage, which resembles peacock feathers. It is often grown as a houseplant or used in landscaping due to its low maintenance requirements and striking appearance.

  3. Selaginella tamariscina (spike- This species is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including fever, inflammation, and digestive disorders. Extracts from the plant have also been shown to have antitumor and antioxidant properties.

  4. Selaginella apoda (meadow spikemoss): This species is found in moist meadows and along stream banks in eastern North America. It is one of the few species in the family that occur in temperate regions.

  5. Selaginella helvetica: This rare and endangered species is found only in the Swiss Alps, where it grows on limestone cliffs. It is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation caused by human activities such as agriculture and urbanization.

These species represent just a few examples of the diversity and importance of Selaginellaceae. They are fascinating plants that have adapted to survive in a variety of environmental conditions and have ecological, economic, and cultural significance.