Types of Plants (With Pictures)

Updated on June 19, 2019
Will Apse profile image

The author has worked in conservation and woodland management over many years.

Kinds of plants
Kinds of plants

Most people will recognize most of the plants on this page. At the same time, we don't always pay too much attention to what makes some living things similar and what makes them different. It is not easy to see that an oak tree and a geranium are near relatives until you start to look closely.

The way we look at plants now has a lot to do with the work of Carl Linnaeus. He was a 17th Century Swedish scientist, and he wanted to work out just how many different kinds of living things there were.

He separated living things into plants and animals—in the same way that people had done for a very long time—but then went much further. He proposed groups and families where living organisms could be placed with their closest relatives. This was the beginning of modern scientific classification.

Classification has changed as science has advanced, but the Linnaean system is still in pretty good shape. On this page you will find the main groups of plants according to that system.

The Main Kinds of Plants

Plants Without Seeds

  • Algae: green, brown and red (see discussion below: "Are algae really plants?")
  • Liverworts
  • Mosses
  • Ferns and horsetails

Plants With Seeds

  • Cycads: palm-like plants with cones
  • Ginkgo: a living fossil
  • Conifers: spruce, fir, larch and so on
  • Flowering plants: from oak trees to geraniums

This list covers most of the plants on our planet, but if you want a really exact understanding you will need to dig into the science. This bibliography is one place to start.

Plants Without Seeds

The most highly evolved plants use seeds to reproduce and spread. Seeds have tough outer coatings and carry a large food store to help the new individual to grow,

More primitive plants use simpler mechanisms. These usually involve spores which have a seed-like role but are very small and usually consist of just a single cell.


Kinds of algae: green, brown and red
Kinds of algae: green, brown and red

Green Algae

This is a very varied group of living things with many thousands of individual species. Most green algae live in water. Others live where it is very damp all the time; they hate being dried out.

If you see a pond where the water is green, it will probably be because millions of tiny green algae have grown there. Each alga is invisible to the naked eye.

On a seashore, you might come across kinds of green algae that are very big indeed: the green seaweeds.

Brown Algae

Brown algae are more common in the ocean than in fresh water.

Some of the tallest plants in the world are brown algae. Giant kelp, for example, is common in shallow oceans, especially off the coast of California. It can be as tall as 250 feet!

A single-celled alga viewed through a very powerful electron microscope. This one is a sea dweller, but many similar kinds live in freshwater ponds and lakes.
A single-celled alga viewed through a very powerful electron microscope. This one is a sea dweller, but many similar kinds live in freshwater ponds and lakes. | Source

Are Algae Really Plants?

To a scientist, the answer is "no." To most people, the answer is "yes."

Close study suggests that algae have more in common with bacteria than plants, and scientists have removed them from the plant kingdom.

Algae photosynthesize (make food from water and carbon dioxide), as do all plants, but they lack the distinctive structures of true plants like roots and leaves.

A kelp forest with many brown algae. Photo by Fastily
A kelp forest with many brown algae. Photo by Fastily


A liverwort
A liverwort

Liverworts are small plants that you see in damp places. They can stand being dried out a little better than algae, but not much.

A common kind of liverwort is pictured above. You usually see this kind near waterfalls or in woods with a lot of rain. The picture has a high magnification. These plants are pretty small!

Liverworts are believed to have evolved soon after plants made the transition from water to the land. In this sense they are more advanced than algae.

They do not have the sophisticated vessels that transport water from roots to leaves found in more advanced plants.


Beautiful moss growing by a stream
Beautiful moss growing by a stream

Mosses are close relatives of liverworts. They also like damp places and they need a lot of water to make offspring. Often mosses and liverworts fight for space around rivers and streams. Mosses don't need soil to grow, so rocks and trees can be covered in moss.

Mosses are the first plant group which show 'apical' growth. This means individual stems grow from the tip or special points along the stem, just as flowering plants do. Liverworts simply expand, growing outwards from every point.

Sphagnum Moss

Sphagnum moss is an especially successful moss that will grow on water. It can form floating mats many feet deep. In places, it is possible to walk on these floating mats, sometimes called "quaking bogs."

One of the strangest experiences I ever had was walking across one of these bogs. Small trees grew in the sphagnum and trees leaned to the side as I passed—my weight on the moss was enough to cause this! This is why they are called "quaking bogs."

A Quaking Bog


Typical fern leaf
Typical fern leaf

Ferns are far better at coping with dry periods than either algae or mosses, but still need very wet conditions to reproduce. This limits where they can grow. You will not find a fern in a desert!

Bracken is an especially successful kind of fern in countries with a cool, wet climate. It spreads quickly by using underground "creeping rhizomes" and can cover many acres very quickly.

In Devonian times, many millions of years ago, ferns were the dominant land plant on our planet. Instead of forests of fir trees or oaks, there were forests of huge tree ferns. Later on, many familiar dinosaurs like the Triceratops would be happy to dine on ferns.

Plants With Seeds

Seeds have an outer layer that helps protect them from drying out, being infected, or being eaten by animals.


Typical cycad cone
Typical cycad cone

Cycads mostly grow in Central America, Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of Australia.

They are the kinds of exotic-looking plants you see in jungle movies, though some are popular house and garden plants. They like moisture and heat.

They can be tall and often have woody trunks. The leaves tend to be long and thin.

If you have grown up in a northern climate, cycads can be strange plants to encounter. Quite suddenly unfamiliar and fascinating structures will grow out of a cycad in my garden, for example, and have me hunting through my books to find out exactly what is happening.

These structures are usually cones of some kind, similar to the cones that conifers produce.

Cones bear exposed seeds rather than the kinds of seeds that you find in flowering plants, which are well protected until they are released. The seeds are often pollinated by special kinds of beetles rather than bees or other insects.

More on cycads: berkeley.edu/cycads.html


Fall colors of a female ginkgo tree in Japan
Fall colors of a female ginkgo tree in Japan

There is only one species of Ginkgo in the world today: Ginkgo biloba.

When you look at the fossils of this plant, it seems that there only ever was one kind of ginkgo; the modern plant looks a great deal like its ancient relatives, who date back to the Permian period (a time well before the dinosaurs).

Despite its lack of diversity, the ginkgo once covered huge areas of the world. Now it is only found naturally in Central China.

Most scientists think that flowering trees have been outcompeting the ginkgo, and so the ginkgo has gradually been dying out.

It is sometimes called a living fossil.

At the same time, the tree's beauty has meant that gardeners and park keepers have carefully planted and tended ginkgo trees around the world.


A spruce forest: a young larch cone; an old fir cone
A spruce forest: a young larch cone; an old fir cone

Conifers are close relatives of cycads. They have cones with seeds and they also have woody trunks.

The most noticeable difference is that conifers like cold, northern climates where they can form huge forests that can stretch from one side of a continent to the other.

The typical conifer shape is excellent at shedding snow. They also have many ways of coping with freezing at the cellular level.

Conifers are popular garden plants too. They are evergreen and most grow very quickly.

Flowering Plants

An oak tree; a geranium; an orchid; and a shrub (hydrangea) in full flower
An oak tree; a geranium; an orchid; and a shrub (hydrangea) in full flower

Some people think of plants and trees as very different. The truth is that trees are plants, just as much as a row of lettuce or a fine rose.

Flowering plants are the most familiar kind of plant for anyone who lives in a temperate climate (not too hot, not too cold).

The thing that makes a geranium so similar to an oak tree is the flowers that they both produce. Flowering plants protect the female parts of the plant inside thick walls of tissue. The male parts of the plant produce pollen, and this needs to burrow its way through this tissue to produce an embryo that then develops into a seed.

Pollen can be transferred from one plant to another by the wind or by insects like bees. Plants that use wind pollination usually have small, drab and inconspicuous flowers. Flowers that use insects for pollination are often big and bright so that the insects can see them from a long way off.

Flowering plants are the plants most able to cope with dry conditions. Cacti can flourish in places where there is no rain for many years at a time.

While flowering trees grow more slowly than conifers, their hard wood is more resistant to insect damage. This means they do better in warmer places.

Pollen With Growing Tubes

Tubes grow from pollen to fertilize the female parts of a flower
Tubes grow from pollen to fertilize the female parts of a flower | Source

Summary of Plant Types and Their Evolution.

Plant types and evolution.
Plant types and evolution. | Source


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Will Apse profile imageAUTHOR

      Will Apse 

      3 months ago

      There are quite a few evergreen plants with little leaves including box which is used for hedges and yew which which you see a lot in cemeteries.

    • profile image

      What kinda plant is this 'it stays green in winter. and has leaves 

      3 months ago

      What kinda bush is this it stays green in winter , and has little leaves

    • profile image


      3 months ago

      thanks a lot

    • profile image


      9 months ago


    • Will Apse profile imageAUTHOR

      Will Apse 

      10 months ago

      Thanks. The real kudos goes to my old biology teacher, though. He knew how to make an interesting subject fascinating.

      So, a nod to Dr Simons, sadly now gone.

    • profile image


      10 months ago

      Welcome resource. I will try to use it twice again in the future. Amazing piece of work.

    • profile image


      11 months ago

      It is very usefull

    • profile image

      Sajan gupta 

      14 months ago

      Very nice.

    • profile image

      Bright A.K.A (BBU) 

      17 months ago

      I know the names of plant now

    • profile image


      21 months ago

      It is so usefull to prepare essaye

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      Very helpful for making an assignment about plants!

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      This is a good site

    • profile image

      23 months ago

      I'm writing an essay about plants and this is very helpful!

    • profile image


      24 months ago

      This is really good because it helps with all my silence work for my group

    • profile image

      Mehar singla 

      2 years ago

      This chart is helpful but plz write or give the names of that plants which are found in the surrounding and have simple names so that it will be easy for the students of lower classes to learn and understand...

    • alison monroe profile image

      Alison Monroe 

      3 years ago

      Nice chart! Evolution marches on!

    • Will Apse profile imageAUTHOR

      Will Apse 

      4 years ago

      I am so pleased, that you got what you were looking for from this page, Katrina.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      This is interesting I've learned so much

    • Will Apse profile imageAUTHOR

      Will Apse 

      5 years ago

      Thanks to both of you for your kind words. I enjoy getting the images right -- which is pretty easy to be honest given how beautiful plants are.

      I think a page called 'types of shale' would really test a person's skills.

      But then, maybe a geologist will pop up and say 'shale is wonderful!'

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 

      5 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      The pictures really made this hubpage zing! Lots of information into a very tight space. Interesting and a visual treat.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Love these descriptions, but algae are plantlike protists, not plants. Great page though! :))

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks! this really helped me with my homework! :D

    • Will Apse profile imageAUTHOR

      Will Apse 

      7 years ago

      I'm glad it helped, Sarah.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      this helped me with plants

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Interesting! Yes, I read in your Hub about Venus Flytraps growing in poor-quality soil, too (in the quaking bog video). I had always thought they consumed insects for their nitrogen, but it seems as though it's their minerals that they're after. I've never seen sundews up close, but I've read about their fascinating insect-trapping mechanism.

    • Will Apse profile imageAUTHOR

      Will Apse 

      8 years ago

      I visited a quaking bog in Wales (UK) on a field trip as a student. It was pretty special.

      One thing about sphagnum is that it only grows in nutrient poor environments. The lack of nutrients also means that plants that are good at catching insects do well.

      In Wales, that meant plants called sundews. These trap and digest insects to extract the nutrients.

      Another way of putting it is that these plants make a kind of compost from flies so they can flourish.

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Interesting and informative stuff, Will. The quaking bog was pretty freaky! The pictures really help illustrate the fascinating variety in the plant kingdom.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)