Audio by David Mitchell from 2005
Get transported back through time to when dinosaurs ruled the earth. The ferns, horsetails, mosses, liverworts and conifers on display in this house are among the most ancient groups of plants having been around for over 350 million years. The paths are crossed with dinosaur tracks and fossils of an ancient tree Pitys withami can be found in amongst the lush planting.
Here the diversity of ferns can be truly appreciated, from the architectural tree ferns through to smaller more delicate ferns growing on the trunks of other trees. As you wander round this house look at the many shades of green, the variety in frond structure and the different shapes and structures of the sori (groups of spores) on the underside of the leaves. At the base of many of the ferns you will find new fronds curled up waiting to unfurl.
Growing over the rocks, ground and trunks of the tree ferns are mosses, liverworts and clubmosses. There are a huge number of species of these small diminutive plants, which can often be over looked. The green carpet they have produced in this house is evocative of the Dicksonia tree fern forests found in Tasmania and New Zealand.
Other ancient groups of plants you may come across as you make your way through this house include the conifers, a group as ancient as the ferns, which produce male and female cones, usually on separate plants and the horsetails (Equisetum), the ancient relatives of which could reach the size of trees (10-15m tall).