F is for….

Ferns
Well it had to be really!
Ferns (and with that I mean Pteridophytes) have been around since the mid Devonian although most modern fern families have only been here since the early Cretaceous.
When we think of ferns we think of just one class of Pteridophytes (the Leptosporangiate ferns) but quillworts, equisetums and whisk ferns are also members of this group. There are over 12,000 species. The oldest known extant genera of leptosporangiate ferns are Marattia, Angiopteris and the Osmundas. They have evolved to grow in every different environment from desert to totally aquatic and are often the first colonists on disturbed ground.
We grow over 80 different species of fern in the fossil garden including quillworts, equisetums and the aquatic Marsilea.

E is for…..

Equisetales
Hailing from as far back as the Carboniferous (360-299 million years ago) these fern relatives once grew to 10meters tall (in the case of Calamites). The modern day Equisetales (in the genus Equisetum) don’t grow anywhere near as big with the tallest, Equisetum giganteum, growing to a mere 3 meters tall.
The trunks of Calamites (as with modern horsetail, Equisetum) grew from a underground rhizome and were filled with air. When a Calamites toppled, the trunk would fill with sediment forming a cast fossil. It is these fossils that are most often found.
Equisetales are represented in the fossil garden by equisetum arvense, E. fluviatile, E. giganteum, E. scirpoides, E. hymale and E. camtschatcense.