Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Dinosaur Plants

On my homestead, I have three dinosaur plants. The first is Horsetail. (That's Horsetail, not Old Horsetail.)
Today's horsetails are fairly small, 2-3 feet high, but they were tree sized a few hundred million years ago. I found mine growing along a stream bank in Gulf Hammock, Florida. I liberated a few and gave them a new home at my place and they have thrived. Being primitive, spore producing plants, they really appreciate the shady, damp area that I put them in.

The horsetail in the photo below is sporting it's spore producing structure at the top.


My other time travelers are an assortment of ferns that also prefer the shady, moist areas. They too are mere shadows of their ancestors, the tree ferns, who cast shadows on the backs of dinosaurs.


The third bit of dinosaur fodder growing at the FC homestead is the primitive Cycad family. I have two (3, if you get real plant nerdy) species of these growing in the woods and around the house. The native cycad pictured below is the Coontie. These stay low to the ground with only the fronds exposed. One type of Coontie was here when I got here, but I also added a different variety from my grandfathers house.
I have planted Sago Palms (not really a palm) as accent plants near the porch. These non-native cycads have large spiky fronds that resemble a palm. They give a very tropical effect wherever they grow.

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These plants are survivors from the earliest forests on the planet.All of these plants are still toting dino defense systems such as underground stems to protect against grazers, spikes on sago fronds to discourage nibblers, and even a few toxins.

These days, they are great plants to have around the house, because almost nothing eats them. The big dinosaurs are long gone.

Like these botanical holdovers, the current crop of dinosaurs has downsized also and they seem to prefer feeding on millet, thistle, and sunflower seeds...


Wayne said...

What a great post of ideas, FC. Dinosaur food, too!

I still get a chill thinking of the only living descendents of dinosaurs, and how their closest living relatives are the crocodilians.

I only wish there were still some seed ferns around. I'd love to have a colony of those.

And how about the horsetail trees? Yeah, I'd put them down near Goulding Creek.

roger said...

time travelers! nice.

vicki said...

I like this post- thinking about how long these plants have been around. Old Horsetail is visiting here and yesterday he was laughing until he couldn't breathe over some news story about dung beetles (another primitive and "the lack of variation" in their diet- I'm sure that will turn up in a post at some point.

Now listen, FC. Let me know how those Sagos work out. I have two beauties in my front yard at the St. Petersburg house and it's a constant battle with scale. I went and talked to the extension service guy and he said they are being wiped out all over Florida and the best you can do is work to control the scale so it doesn't get the upper hand. As a result I'm out washing mine with soap and water everytime I'm there. It's a battle I intend to win because they are such wonderful plants.
I hope yours stay scale free...

Rexroth's Daughter said...

I love the perspective in this post. It's like a continuing thought from the puffball post, too. When we look around carefully and thoughtfully, like you do, we can really see the result of millions of years of influences. And all of it is locked away in something as small as a seed.

Deb said...

When I took a botany class in high school I was fascinated by primitive plants, particularly ferns. We have lots of them around here, and horsetails. I hadn't considered the antiquity of these plants lately; this post refreshed my memory!

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

I love ferns & palm looking plants but that horsetail with it's spores on top is beautiful.

Floridacracker said...

Where would you put your Apatasaurus?

yes, and I didn't have to handcuff these...

Scale is about the only problem with these guys and so far some soap spray and judicious trimming has worked out for me.
As for Hoss, you can tell him he put a big fat lump in my throat with his post and everybody else that read it.

We're all toting some ancient DNA,these guys just have us beat by a few hundred mill...

Horsetail must be really's actually hard to find down here. I was pretty stoked when I realized what I had found.

Floridacracker said...

It's a neat plant...definitely not flashy, but it still has some charm.

Zanne said...

Fantastic! I'm telling you, my visit to Wakiwa Springs last year was one of the strangest and most wonderful experiences I've ever had. It was drizzly and a little chilly which kept visitors away. I drove back into the more remote area of the park and HOLY COW... you just got the feeling you had traveled back in time. You couldn't hear traffic...nothing. There's a spring fed lake and all the plant material was like you said..... perrfect ancient dinosaurian! It was awsome, simply awesome. How lucky that you live in what??? Zone 7?? that allows you to grow such fantastic plant material.

Of course, I an grow peonies however.

Floridacracker said...

I know what you mean...there are still places like Wekiwa that evoke that prehistoric feeling. I believe we sit on the zone 9-10 boundary...kind of a tropic/temperate melting pot for plants.
I have never seen a real peony...ponies, yes, but

threecollie said...

I love sagos and have a couple in my living room. Sorry to read that they are endangered.
And just in case....what kind of soap?