Fossil Cryptogams

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THE exogenous(circumferential)growth of fossil vascular cryptogams is a subject of so much interest and importance, that I may perhaps be permitted to say a few words regarding it. In a paper which was read at the December meeting of the Edinburgh Botanical Society, I combated the idea of the circumferential growth of calamites. The moist nature of the soil in which calamites must have grown would lead one to expect a poor development of the fibro-vascular bundles, and in comparing what I believe to be the fibro-vascular bundles of calamites with those of our recent equisetums, this idea is fully confirmed. Then in Equisetum there is a large development of the sclerenchyma of Mettenius, which forms the strong hypoderma. In a Brazilian fern which has come under my notice, this sclerenchyma runs to the fibro-vascular bundles, and presents an appearance exactly like Williamson's woody wedges, the large and small cells giving an appearance wonderfully like medullary rays. There is another point which, to my mind, is of much importance; namely, that in most of our recent vascular cryptograms, the embryonic parts do not enlarge; but as each successive leaf and portion of stem is produced, every such leaf and portion of stem is larger than the part preceding it, and this continues until a certain maximum is reached, when the stem becomes cylindrical. It is impossible to overlook that this mode of growth is evident in calamites, and until convincing proof can be brought forward of the circumferential growth of calamites, I must decline to accept it. Turning from the calamites to Lepidodendron, it is evident that in it circumferential growth was much more likely to have occurred. In the calamites there is no evidence that they required year by year increasing quantities of water for purposes of transpiration, while in Lepidodendron the numerous small leaves which must have gone on increasing in number during the whole life of the plant (which however need not have been very long) demands that some addition to the conducting tissue should be made. As in botany we constantly find the same physiological purpose provided for in many morphologically distinct ways, I do not think it is at all necessary to believe in a form of growth identical with that in dicotyledons, because that would involve a complete change in type. Looking at such a stem as Lycopodium chamaecyparissus, in which the cortical tissues become so curiously modified, there is no difficulty in imagining that an increase by means of a cortical meristem might take place, a condition which I believe still exists in Isoetes. Hegelmaier in his paper. “Zur Morphologie der Gattung Lycopodium” in the Botanische Zeitung, 1872, p. 796, points out the presence in lycopods of a peculiar layer which he calls the phloem sheath, outside the phloem of the bundle, but inside the cortical portion, and therefore a series of cells belonging to the plerom and not to the periblem tissues. It seems to me probable that this phloem sheath may have represented a meristem layer from which new tissue was formed, as it would be the representative of the plerom meristem of the higher plants, while its position outside the vessels would further seem in some way related to the absence of vessels in the secondary wood of conifers.

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McNAB, W. Fossil Cryptogams . Nature 7, 267 (1873) doi:10.1038/007267a0

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