Plant Classification

One way to think about the diversity of plant forms is in the context of adaptations to life on land. The green algae are probably the least changed from the ancestors of modern day land plants, and many of the branches in the plant evolutionary tree relate to adaptations that give them advantages for living on land. For example, vascular tissues allow water to be delivered to parts of the plant not immersed in water, seeds provide a nutrition source so that a plant can wait to germinate until conditions are good, enclosed seeds, protected inside the ovary, often produce fruits that encourage animal dispersal, and flowers are of use in attracting pollinators.

plant phylogeny

Plant adaptations to life on land

Flowering Plant Families


Clade1 Clade2 Family Common Name Number of Species Familiar Representatives
Magnoliid   Annonaceae custard apple 2220 custard apple, cherimoya, soursop, sweetsop, ilama
Magnoliid   Lauraceae laurel 2500 laurel, avocado, sassafras, cinnamon
Magnoliid   Piperaceae pepper 3600 black pepper
Monocot   Araceae arum 4025 skunk cabbage, taro, peace lily, philodendron, duckweed
Monocot   Arecaceae palm 2361 coconut palm, date palm, palmetto
Monocot   Cyperaceae sedge 4350 water chestnut, papyrus sedge
Monocot   Iridaceae iris 2025 iris
Monocot   Orchidaceae orchid 21950 orchid, lady's slipper
Monocot   Poaceae or Gramineae grass 10035 bamboo, corn, wheat, rice, barley, millet
Eudicot   Aizoaceae or Ficoidaceae ice plant 2020 ice plant
Eudicot   Amaranthaceae amaranth 2050 spinach, beet, quinoa
Eudicot   Cactaceae cactus 1500 prickly pear, saguaro, agave
Eudicot   Caryophyllaceae pink 2200 pink, carnation
Eudicot   Proteaceae protea 1600 macadamia
Eudicot   Ranunculaceae buttercup 2525 buttercup, poppy, clematis, columbine, larkspur, peony
Eudicot Asterid Acanthaceae acanthus 3500 mangrove
Eudicot Asterid Apiaceae or Umbelliferae parsley 3780 anise, caraway, carrot, celery, cilantro, cumin, dill, hemlock
Eudicot Asterid Apocynaceae dogbane 4555 vinca, plumeria
Eudicot Asterid Araliaceae Aralia or ivy 1450 ginseng
Eudicot Asterid Asteraceae or Compositae daisy 22750 lettuce, sunflower, artichoke, dandelion, chrysanthemum
Eudicot Asterid Boraginaceae borage 2740 forget-me-not
Eudicot Asterid Campanulaceae bellflower 2380 campanula, lobelia
Eudicot Asterid Convolvulaceae bindweed 1600 bindweed, morning glory, sweet potato, water spinach
Eudicot Asterid Ericaceae heath 3995 heath, heather, azalea, blueberry, huckleberry, cranberry
Eudicot Asterid Gentianaceae gentian 1650  
Eudicot Asterid Gesneriaceae gesneriad 3870 African violet
Eudicot Asterid Lamiaceae or Labiatae mint 7175 basil, mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, lavender, teak
Eudicot Asterid Orobanchaceae broomrape 2060 broomrape
Eudicot Asterid Rubiaceae madder 13150 coffee, cinchona (source of quinine), gardenia
Eudicot Asterid Scrophulariaceae figwort 1700  
Eudicot Asterid Solanaceae nightshade 2460 eggplant, potato, tomato, chili pepper, tomatillo, tobacco
Eudicot Rosid Brassicaceae or Cruciferae cabbage 3710 broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip, radish, horse radish
Eudicot Rosid Euphorbiaceae spurge 5735 cassava, castor oil plant, Barbados nut, poinsettia
Eudicot Rosid Fabaceae or Leguminosae bean 19400 string bean, alfalfa, clover, lentil, pea
Eudicot Rosid Malvaceae mallow 4225 cotton, cacao, kola nut, okra, durian, hybiscus, baobab
Eudicot Rosid Melastomataceae or Melastomaceae melastome 5005  
Eudicot Rosid Myrtaceae myrtle 4625 myrtle, clove, guava, allspice, eucalyptus
Eudicot Rosid Phyllanthaceae phyllanthus 1745  
Eudicot Rosid Rosaceae rose 2830 apple, pear, quince, apricot, plum, cherry, peach, raspberry, strawberry, almond
Eudicot Rosid Rutaceae rue 1815 orange, lemon, lime, kumquat, grapefruit
Eudicot Rosid Sapindaceae soapberry 1580 lychee, rambutan, longan
Eudicot Rosid Urticaceae nettle 2625 stinging nettle