We used a unique combination of techniques to sequence the first complete chloroplast genome of a lycophyte, Huperzia lucidula. This plant belongs to a significant clade hypothesized to represent the sister group to all other vascular plants. We used fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) to isolate the organelles, rolling circle amplification (RCA) to amplify the genome, and shotgun sequencing to 8x depth coverage to obtain the complete chloroplast genome sequence. The genome is 154,373 bp, containing inverted repeats of 15,314 bp each, a large single-copy region of 104,088 bp, and a small single-copy region of 19,657 bp. Gene order is more similar to those of mosses, liverworts, and hornworts than to gene order for other vascular plants. For example, the Huperzia chloroplast genome possesses the bryophyte gene order for a previously characterized 30 kb inversion, thus supporting the hypothesis that lycophytes are sister to all other extant vascular plants. The lycophyte chloroplast genome data also enable a better reconstruction of the basal tracheophyte genome, which is useful for inferring relationships among bryophyte lineages. Several unique characters are observed in Huperzia, such as movement of the gene ndhF from the small single copy region into the inverted repeat. We present several analyses of evolutionary relationships among land plants by using nucleotide data, inferred amino acid sequences, and by comparing gene arrangements from chloroplast genomes. The results, while still tentative pending the large number of chloroplast genomes from other key lineages that are soon to be sequenced, are intriguing in themselves, and contribute to a growing comparative database of genomic and morphological data across the green plants. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.