The most characteristic feature of the Angiosperm is the flower, which shows remarkable variety in form and elaboration, and supplies the most trustworthy characters for the distinction of the series and families or natural orders, into which the group is divided.
Its use with any approach to its modern scope only became possible after Robert Brown had established in 1827 the existence of truly naked seeds in the Cycadeae and Coniferae, entitling them to be correctly called Gymnosperms. From that time onwards, so long as these Gymnosperms were, as was usual, reckoned as dicotyledonous flowering plants, the term Angiosperm was used antithetically by botanical writers, but with varying limitation, as a group-name for other dicotyledonous plants.
The advent in 1351 of Hofmeister's brilliant discovery of the changes proceeding in the embryo-sac of flowering plants, and his determination of the correct relationships of these with the Cryptogamia, fixed the true position of Gymnosperms as a class distinct from Dicotyledons, and the term Angiosperm then gradually came to be accepted as the suitable designation for the whole of the flowering plants other than Gymnosperms, and as including therefore the classes of Dicotyledons and Monocotyledons.
ANGIOSPERMS. The botanical term "Angiosperm" (ayyeEov, receptacle, and o-71pua, seed) was coined in the form Angiospermae by Paul Hermann in 1690, as the name of that one of his primary divisions of the plant kingdom, which included flowering plants possessing seeds enclosed in capsules, in contradistinction to his Gymnospermae, or flowering plants with achenial or schizo-carpic fruits - the whole fruit or each of its pieces being here regarded as a seed and naked.