Our modern diminutive " horsetails " with scaly leaves were represented in the Carboniferous period by gigantic calamites, often with a diameter of I to 2 ft.
Sphenophyllum was a slender climbing plant with whorls of leaves, which was probably related both to the calamites and the lycopods.
Fossils are extremely rare in these beds; Buthotrephis has long been known, and doubtful traces of Calamites and ferns have been found, but it was not until 1897 that undoubted Palaeozoic fossils were obtained.
The most important and best known of the extinct Equisetales are, however, the Calamites (see Palaeobotany: Palaeozoic).
In the primary structure of the stem the Calamites present many points of resemblance to Equisetum, but secondary thickening went on in both stem and root.
Some Calamites were heterosporous, sporangia with microspores and megaspores being found in the same cone.
Our knowledge of the extinct Equisetales, full as it is with respect to certain types, does not suffice for a strictly phylogenetic classification of the group. The usual subdivision is into Equisetaceae including Equisetum and Equisetites (with which Phyllotheca and Schizoneura may be provisionally associated), and Calamariaceae, including Calamites and Archaeocalamites.
The common casts of Calamites are of this nature, representing the form of the hollow medulla, and bearing on their surface the print of the nodal constrictions and of the ridges and furrows on the inner surface of the wood.
Using Calamites as a generic name for all those Calamarian stems in which the ribs alternate at the nodes, we have, on Weiss's system, the following sub-genera: Stylocalamites, branches rare and irregularly arranged; Calamitina, branches in regular verticils, limited to certain nodes, which surmount specially short internodes; Eucalamites, branches present on every node.
In many Calamites there is evidence that the aerial stem sprang from a horizontal rhizome, as in the common species C. (Stylocalamites) Suckowi; in other specimens the aerial stem has an independent, rooting base.
This secondary wood, in the true Calamites (Arthropitys, Goeppert), has a simple structure comparable to that of the simplest Coniferous woods; it is made up 4 FIG.
The above description applies to the stems of Calamites in the narrower sense (Arthropitys of the French authors), to which the specimens from the British Coal Measures mostly belong.
In Calamodendron (Upper Coal Measures) the wood has a more complex structure than in Calamites, the principal rays including radial tracts of fibrous tissue, in addition to the usual parenchyma.
The genera Lepidodendron, Sigillaria, Stigmaria, or Calamites, which played so great a share in the vegetation of the same age in the northern hemisphere, have not been recognized among the Palaeozoic forms of India, but examples of Sigillaria, Lepidodendron and Bothrodendron are known to have existed in South Africa in the Permo-Carboniferous era.
The Palaeozoic Calamites were succeeded in the Triassic period by large Equisetites, differing, so far as we know, in no essential Equ;se- respect from existing Equisetums. The large stems taceae.
This genus, like the allied Calamites, appears to have possessed cones of more than one type; but we know little of the structure of these Mesozoic Equisetaceous genera as compared with our much more complete knowledge of Calamites and Archaeocalamites.
Starting with the Permo-Carboniferous vegetation, and omitting for the moment the Glossopteris flora, we find a comparatively homogeneous flora of wide geographical range, consisting to a large extent of arborescent lycopods, calamites, and other vascular cryptogams, plants which occupied a place comparable with that of Gymnosperms and Angiosperms in our modern forests; with these were other types of the greatest phylogenetic importance, which serve as finger-posts pointing to lines of evolution of which we have but the faintest signs among existing plants.
Arborescent Pteridophytes are barely represented, and such dominant types as Lepidodendron, Sigillaria, Calamites and Sphenophyllum have practically ceased to exist; Cycads and Conifers have assumed the leading role, and the still luxuriant fern vegetation has put on a different aspect.