The ancient broad-leaved Gymnosperm Gnetum has a few surviving species scattered through the tropics of both worlds, one reaching Polynesia.
This form of stem, of a habit entirely different from that of recent Cycads and extinct Bennettites, points to the existence in the Mesozoic era of another type of Gymnosperm allied to the Bennettitales of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods by its flowers, but possessing a distinctive character in its vegetative organs.
We have a combination in the same flower of stalked ovules, the structure of which has already been described, and interseminal scales constituting a complex gynoecium, which exhibits in certain features an approach to the angiospermous type, and differs in structure from other Gymnosperm flowers, associated with male organs constructed on a plan almost identical with that.
The mammoth redwood tree of California,Sequoia (Wellingtonia) gigantea, which represents the tallest Gymnosperm, is a good example of the regular tapering main stem and narrow pyramidal form.
If, on the other hand, the endosperm is the product of an act of fertilization as definite as that giving rise to the embryo itself, we have to recognize that twin-plants are produced within the embryo-sac - one, the embryo, which becomes the angiospermous plant, the other, the endosperm, a short-lived, undifferentiated nurse to assist in the nutrition of the former, even as the subsidiary embryos in a pluri-embryonic Gymnosperm may facilitate the nutrition of the dominant one.
In the light of our present knowledge of Ginkgo and the Cycads, there can scarcely be a doubt that spermatozoids were formed in the cells of the antheridium of the Cordaitean pollen-grain and that of other Palaeozoic Spermophyta; the an theridium is much more developed than in any recent Gymnosperm, and it may be doubted whether any pollen-tube was formed.
As the name Gymnosperm (Gr.