Both were in turn replaced by the Lower Mesozoic flora, which again is thought to have had its birth in the hypothetical Gondwana land, and in which Gymnosperms played the leading part formerly taken by vascular Cryptogams. The abundance of Cycadean plants is one of its most striking features.
The line of descent of recent cycads is comparatively clear in so far as they have undoubted affinity with Palaeozoic plants which combined cycadean and filicinean features; but opinion is much more divided as to the nature of the phylum from which the conifers are derived.
A feature of interest in connexion with the phylogeny of cycads is the presence of long hairs clothing the scale-leaves, and forming a cap on the summit of the stem-apex or attached to the bases of petioles; on some fossil cycadean plants these outgrowths have the form of scales, and are identical in structure with the ramenta (paleae) of the majority of ferns.
In structure a cycadean sporangium recalls those of certain ferns (Marattiaceae, Osmundaceae and Schizaeaceae), but in the development of the spores there are certain peculiarities not met with among the Vascular Cryptogams. With the exception of Cycas, the female flowers are also in the form of cones, bearing numerous carpellary scales.
Before following the growth of the pollen-grain after pollination, we will briefly describe the structure of a cycadean ovule.