More than any other taxonomic character, megaspores have been used in the genus Isoetes (known by the English common name of “quillwort”), despite the fallacy of a single-character taxonomy. Microspores, on the other hand, have been largely neglected in taxonomic schemes. Like megaspores, terms for microspore ornamentation (also known as “sculpturing”) have not been standardized. I examined microspore ornamentation, including both macroornamentation and microornamentation, of 52 taxa from Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, North America, and South America with the scanning electron microscope. Macroornamentation is discernible with light microscopy; microornamentation requires scanning electron microscopy. Ornately sculptured spores were much more frequent than were laevigate or psilate patterns: 21 taxa had an echinate pattern; 19 had an aculeate pattern; 6 were cristate; 5 were psilate; and 1 was laevigate. The proximal and distal ridges and surfaces may vary in both the type and density of ornamentation. Distinct macroornamentation patterns characterize certain species groups. Microornamentation types include granulate, bacillate, fimbriate, and filamentose: of the microspores I examined, virtually all were partially granulate; 11 were bacillate; 4 were fimbriate; and 1 was filamentose. Based on this limited sampling, species with a higher ploidy level often have larger microspores, but no clear relationship between microspore ornamentation and ploidy level was established, nor were any geographical or ecological trends clear. Like megaspores, microspore ornamentation is strongly convergent. Although microspores are often attached to megaspores, the role of spore ornamentation in coordinated dispersal remains unclear.
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