On the other hand, fern-like seed-plants, known as Pteridosperms, and Gymnosperms belonging almost entirely to families now extinct, were abundant, while the Pteridophyta attained a development exceeding anything that they can now show.
We must bear in mind that throughout the Palaeozoic period, and indeed far beyond it, vascular plants, so far as the existing evidence shows, were represented only by the Pteridophyta, Pteridosperms and Gymnosperms. Although the history of the Angiosperms may probably go much further back than present records show, there is no reason to suppose that they were present, as such, amongst the Palaeozoic vegetation.
It is, however, probable that a considerable group of true Ferns, allied to Marattiaceae, existed in Palaeozoic times, side by side with simpler forms. In one respect the fronds of many Palaeozoic Ferns and Pteridosperms were peculiar, namely, in the presence on their rachis, and at the base of their pinnae, of anomalous leaflets, often totally different in form and venation from the ordinary pinnules.
In all these cases there is reason to suspect that the plants may have been Pteridosperms, rather than Ferns.
Although doubts have lately been cast on the authenticity of Palaeozoic Marattiaceae owing to the difficulty in distinguishing between their fructifications and the pollenbearing organs of Pteridosperms, the anatomical evidence (stem of Psaronius) strongly confirms the opinion that a considerable group of these Ferns existed.