Article: Reinvestigation of Nystroemia pectiniformis Halle, an enigmatic seed plant from the Upper Permian of China
Reinvestigation of Nystroemia pectiniformis Halle from the Upper Shihhotze Formation of Shanxi Province, China, has led to the identification of new and important features of this enigmatic Late Permian seed plant, permitting its typification and diagnosis. After reassembling several of the previously studied specimens to form a single articulated branching system comprising at least four orders of branching, previously unknown features of its branching pattern and morphology have been characterized. First-order axes are wide and branch to one side only, bearing second-order branches either singly or in pairs and of two kinds: one fertile and bearing characteristic ovulate branching systems and the other presumably vegetative. Ovulate second-order axes are narrow and branch to one side only, producing numerous, closely spaced lateral branches in two alternate to sub-opposite rows. Lateral branches are slender and produce numerous ovulate branching systems to one side of the axis only. Ovulate branching systems divide unequally to produce 3-15 ultimate axes of different lengths that are planated. Each ultimate axis bears a single terminal ovule with 180 degree rotational symmetry and two horn-like integumentary projections distally. The other kind of second-order axes are distinct from those bearing ovules; they are wider and longer and branches occur on both sides of the secondary axis, lacking divisions in close proximity to the first-order axis. These have only been observed incomplete although their distinct morphology indicates they are unlikely to be ovulate branches from which ovules/seeds have been shed. Additional organs of the Nystroemia plant are considered, including pollen organs previously assigned by Halle to the same species (displaying its characteristic branching style), and also leaves of Chiropteris reniformis Halle that were probably borne on the larger kind of second-order branches. Implications of Nystroemia on seed plant evolution and distribution are discussed, and it is concluded that this most likely represents a late stratigraphic occurrence of a plesiomorphic hydrasperman-type seed plant with affinities closely allied to members of the Lyginopteridales.