Note: This is part of a series of posts excerpted from my book, Billions of Missing Links: A Rational Look at the Mysteries Evolution Can't Explain.
The upright posture of plants is a striking design that falls short of a clear explanation. The pat answer is that prehistoric flat plants decided to go vertical to compete for more sun. But where did this need to compete arise? And how could a limp ground hugger accidentally develop systems to support excessive weight — maybe tons of wood — root systems to support the weight, transport systems to move the water and nutrients up, and defense mechanisms against weather and pests? Much of it had to be there at the same time. An analogy that I used in my previous book readily applies. The spontaneous appearance of an upright plant would be like taking a walk from New York City to Los Angeles and then pointing out how easy it was because your first step took you to Cleveland and the second one to Chicago.