Introduction

This article presents an overview of plant life-forms and their classification. For the purpose of this article, 'plants' are defined as 'photoautotrophic eukaryotes'. This definition is inclusive of all algal lineages and the monophyletic embryophytes (i.e., land plants including mosses, liverworts, and hornworts). The first section discusses briefly the historical background of the life-form concept and life-form classification systems. Subsequent sections provide a more detailed overview of the various life-form classification systems for the algae and the land plants.

Because much of plant morphology is determined by metabolic processes that are influenced by the vagaries of the physical environment (temperature, light conditions, the availability of water, minerals, carbon dioxide, and oxygen; mechanical perturbation and herbivory), the habitat preference and life-form of many species are closely related. For this reason, plant life-form classification systems can stress either morphological, structural, or developmental (phenotypic) criteria or ambient ecological conditions. This duality in plant life-form classifications is emphasized throughout this article.

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