The Suitcase Lady

Prehistoric

July 22, 2014, 9:53 pm

We went to the farm store the other day to buy a can of spray paint and came home with a magnolia tree. We are not given to impulsive purchases. I think it was the fault of the dinosaurs.

I’ve been doing dinosaur research lately for a children’s program. The kids will be drawing dinosaurs in their habitats, and I needed to know more about the plants that flourished during the Mesozoic era. I’m already familiar with some of the plants. Our yard and beach have thousands of horsetails, and we have a patch of ferns that are as high as my waist.

The Gymnosperms, the first plants to have seeds, dominated much of the era. They are often called naked seeds as they develop on the surface of the reproductive structure, a pine cone or short stalks. So if you have a conifer or a gingko tree in your back yard, you may fantasize that dinosaurs would feel right at home. Unless you live in the tropics, you won’t have another Gymnosperm in your yard, a cycad. They look like enormous pineapples with a bunch of ferns stuck on the top.

Toward the end of the Mesozoic, the Angiosperms appeared. These are flowering plants with their seeds enclosed in a fruit. They proceeded to take over the world.

My surprise came when I discovered that magnolias were among the earliest flowering plants. I have always thought of them as the plant equivalent of delicate southern bells. But no, botanically they are real survivors and coexisted with the dinos.

Magnolias are one of the oldest plants in existence, but they were named in the 18th century. In 1793, botanist Charles Plumier wrote about a flowering tree on the island of Martinique. He named it after Pierre Magnol, a 17th century French botanist.

Since our new magnolia has such impressive family longevity, I hope it will survive. If not, we have a one year guarantee.

Magnolia

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