The Bryophyta and Pteridophyta have sprung from the higher Thallophyta, and together form the larger group Archegoniatae, so-called from the form of the organ (archegonium) in which the egg-cell is developed.
It does not at first appear to be the same with the bulkier plants, such as the ordinary green herbs, shrubs or trees, but a study of their earlier development indicates that they do not at the outset differ in any way from the simple undifferentiated forms. Each commences its existence as a simple naked protoplast, in the embroyo-sac or the archegonium, as the case may be.
No other substance, at least, with which he experimented had a like effect, and it is possible that in the archegonium which contains the ovum malic acid is present.
The megaspore-nucleus divides repeatedly, and cells are produced from the peripheral region inwards, which eventually fill the sporecavity with a homogeneous tissue (prothallus); some of the superficial cells at the micropylar end of the megaspore increase in size and divide by a tangential wall into two, an upper cell which gives rise to the short two-celled neck of the archegonium, and a lower cell which develops into a large egg-cell.
Important points of difference exist, however, in the apical position of the meristem of the Ophioglossaceous prothalli, in the presence of a basal cell to the archegonium, and in the multiciliate spermatozoids.
A, Unopened archegonium; o, ovum; ventral canal cell; k', nec k-canal-cell.
An archegonium consists of a large oval egg-cell surmounted by a short neck composed of one or more tiers of cells, six to eight cells in each tier.