Gymnosperms were the first seed-bearing plants to appear on Earth. The seeds of gymnosperms (typically shed from scales arranged in cones) provided protection for developing embryos and allowed them to remain viable for a long time. Compared to non-seed plants around them, gymnosperms attained a reduced reliance on growing in very moist environments. By the age of the dinosaurs (150 million to 270 million years ago), gymnosperms had become the dominant vegetation on Earth. Eventually pushed out by the much more successful flowering plants, gymnosperms today number less than 1000 species. Although they occur throughout the world, they are most prominent in areas with nutrient-poor soils. Gymnosperms such as pine, fir, spruce, and cedar are very important timber trees.
NYBG's Gymnosperm Projects:Genomics of Comparative Seed Evolution
Phylogeography and Conservation Genetics of the Caribbean Zamia clade