Carboniferous arborescent lycopod and Holocene herbaceous lycopod

Arborescent LycopsidQuillwort
Images from Eli Heimans, Otto Thome

Any of a group of Terragen plants belonging to the division Lyopodiophyta, including the clubmosses (which superficially resemble true mosses) and quillworts. Prior to lazurogenic efforts they were small but widespread herbaceous plants, often forming a green carpet along the ground in temperate or tropical forests and swamps. Lycopods are the oldest group of Terragen tracheophytes, with a fossil history going back to the Silurian. They differ from all other vascular plants in that they lack complex leaves; each leaf has only a single vein. Like ferns, these plants do not bear seeds, but disperse spores instead, which give rise to a generation of tiny gametophytes that reproduce via egg and sperm. Thus, they require moist or seasonally moist environments to complete their life cycle.

During the Carboniferous, some lycopod species grew to tree-like proportions, exceeding 35 metres in height, with trunks as much as a metre in diameter, and forming huge forests that dominated the land. Unlike typical modern Terragen trees, these lycopods grew their long narrow leaves from their trunk and branches, typically dropping them from the older parts of the plant. Their trunks lacked true wood, but were supported by the hard "bark" of the outer trunk. Unlike the true bark of later tree species the this "bark" remained green and capable of photosynthesis.

Arborescent lycopods became extinct on Old Earth by the end of the Paleozoic, but are often seen today in Terragen biohabs and gardens. Lazurogens of these ancient forms are often valued by gardeners and landscape designers because their highly determinate growth pattern and the regular pattern of diamond-shaped leaf scars on the trunk brings a certain formal quality to a planting; many ornamental varieties are known in horticulture, some dating back as far as the late Information Age. The most extensive and authentic set of lazurogened lycopods was created by the famous transapient carboniferophile lazurogeneer Lycopods in the Mist Illuminated by the Sunrise.

The more than 1200 species of small lycopods native to Old Earth from the advent of humanity until the Great Dying were moderately well recorded in the Burning Library Project, and it is assumed that GAIA has managed to reconstitute the species that were native to Earth at the dawn of the Holocene.

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Text by Stephen Inniss
Initially published on 04 July 2010.