Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. They include familiar organisms such as trees, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The scientific study of plants, known as botany, has identified about 350,000 extant species of plants, defined as seed plants, bryophytes, ferns and fern allies. As of 2004, some 287,655 species had been identified, of which 258,650 are flowering and 18,000 bryophytes (see table below). Green plants, sometimes called Viridiplantae, obtain most of their energy from sunlight via a process called photosynthesis.
Aristotle divided all living things between plants (which generally do not move), and animals (which often are mobile to catch their food). In Linnaeus' system, these became the Kingdoms Vegetabilia (later Metaphyta or Plantae) and Animalia (also called Metazoa). Since then, it has become clear that the Plantae as originally defined included several unrelated groups, and the fungi and several groups of algae were removed to new kingdoms. However, these are still often considered plants in many contexts, both technical and popular.
Current definitions of Plantae
When the name Plantae or plants is applied to a specific taxon, it is usually referring to one of three concepts. From smallest to largest in inclusiveness, these three groupings are:
|Land plants, also known as Embryophyta or Metaphyta.
||Plantae sensu strictissimo
||As the narrowest of plant categories, this is further delineated below.
|Green plants - also known as Viridiplantae, Viridiphyta or Chlorobionta
||Plantae sensu stricto
||Comprise the above Embryophytes, Charophyta (i.e., primitive stoneworts), and Chlorophyta (i.e., green algae such as sea lettuce). Viridiplantae encompasses a group of organisms that possess chlorophyll a and b, have plastids that are bound by only two membranes, are capable of storing starch, and have cellulose in their cell walls. It is this clade which is mainly the subject of this article.
|Archaeplastida, Plastida or Primoplantae
||Plantae sensu lato
||Comprises the green plants above, as well as Rhodophyta (red algae) and Glaucophyta (simple glaucophyte algae). As the broadest plant clade, this comprises most of the eukaryotes that eons ago acquired their chloroplasts directly by engulfing cyanobacteria.