The evolution of the isoetalean lycopsids spans much of the history of vascular plants, from Late, (or possibly Middle), Devonian to the current day genus Isoetes. The best known fossil members of this group are the arborescent lepidodendrids that dominated the Late Carboniferous coal swamps. Simpler unbranched isoetaleans with elongate stems also predated, coexisted with, and postdated the coal swamp trees, extending well into the Mesozoic. Whereas certain synapomorphies such as stigmarian rootlets, bipolar growth and secondary tissues unite the clade, other features characterize smaller subgroups of differing age, growth form and possibly, evolutionary lineage. Although some of these features are well known for plants of given time periods, particularly the Carboniferous, trends in character evolution have never been adequately documented for the group as a whole. A better understanding of such trends throughout the isoetalean fossil record could be valuable in distinguishing evolutionary lineages from convergence. It is interesting that several morphological characters of modern Isoetes are present as early as the Triassic: monolete microspores, sunken sporangia and elaborate ligules with glossopodia occur within elongate-stemmed Triassic forms. The dominant plant habit of modern Isoetes, a reduced cormose form that lacks appreciable stem elongation, originated at least by the Jurassic and typifies late Mesozoic and Cenozoic isoetaleans.
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