The sporophyte is the plant which is differentiated into stem, leaf and root, which show a wonderful variety 01 form; the internal structure also shows increased complexity and variety as compared with the other group of vascular plants, the Pteridophyta.
Within the limits of the sporophyte generation the Pteridophytes and Phanerogams also differ from the Bryophytes in possessing special assimilative and transpiring organs, the leaves, though these organs are developed, as we have seen, in the gametophyte of many liverworts and of all the mosses.
If the axis of such a sporogonium were prolonged downwards into the soil to form a fixing and absorptive root, the whole structure would become a physiologically independent plant, exhibiting in many though by no means all respects the leading features of the sporophyte or ordinary vegetative and spore-bearing individual in Ptericlophytes and Phanerogams. These facts, among others, have led to the theory, plausible in some respects, of the origin of this sporophyte by descent from an Anthoceros-like sporogonium (see PTERIDOPHYTA).
Thus in the series Bryophyta, Pteridophyta, Phanerogamia, whilst the sporophyte presents progressive development, the gametophyte presents continuous reduction.
Concerning the second question, the recent investigations of Buchner ascogenous hyphae with their asci represent the sporophyte since they are derived from the fertilized ascogonium.
As is well known, the dividing nuclei of the cells of the sporophyte generation of the higher plants exhibit a double number of chromosomes, while the dividing nuclei of the cells of the gametophyte generation exhibit the single number.
The independent plant which is generally attached to the soil by hair-like structures is the sexual generation, the sporophyte is a stalked or sessile capsule which remains always attached to the gametophyte from which it derives the whole or part of its nourishment.
Although the antithetic theory is supported by many facts regarding the lifehistory and structure of the group of plants under consideration, it is quite possible that a stage in which the sporophyte was wholly dependent on the gametophyte may never have been passed through in their evolution.
The body of the sporophyte in the great majority of the vascular plants shows a considerable increase in complexity over that found in the gametophyte of Bryophytes.
In accordance with the prevalent antithetic view of the alternation of generations in these plants (see PLANTS, REPRODUCTION or), the forms distinguished as sporophyte and gametophyte are not homogenetic; consequently their leaves are not homologous, but are only functionally similar (homoplastic; see infra).