Club mosses, also called lycophytes, are flowerless and seedless plants in the family Lycopodiaceae, that belong to an ancient group of plants of the division Lycophyta. The lycophytes were one of the dominant plants during the Coal age (360-286 million years ago) and many were shrubs or large trees. By 250 million years ago, most of the woody species had died out. Between 10 and 15 living genera have been recognized, consisting of about 400 species. Lycopodiaceae are cosmopolitan, occurring in arctic to tropical regions. Nowhere do they dominate plant communities today as they did in the past. In arctic and temperate regions, club mosses are terrestrial; whereas in the tropics, they are mostly epiphytes near the tops of trees and seldom seen. The classification of club mosses has changed radically in recent years. Most temperate species were grouped within the genus Lycopodium, from the Greek lycos, meaning wolf, and pous meaning foot, in an imaginative reference to the resemblance in some species of the densely-leaved branch tips to a wolf's foot. However, it is now clear that fundamental differences exist among the club mosses with respect to a variety of important characters. Seven genera and 27 species have been recognized in the flora of North America. Four of the common genera, formerly all within the genus Lycopodium, are Lycopodium, the tree club mosses (6 species), Diphasiastrum, the club mosses (5 species), Huperzia, the fir mosses (7 species), and Lycopodiella, the bog club mosses (6 species); all are terrestrial. The sole epiphytic member of the club moss family in North America is the hanging fir moss (Phlegmariurus dichotomus), which is common in subtropical and tropical Central and South America. In North America it is known only from Big Cypress Swamp, Florida.
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