A plants survival will often depend on its ability to adapt as evolution changes the conditions it grows in, the climate it is exposed to. The flowering varieties we take for granted today are probably the most recent to evolve and largely pre dominate our landscapes. Shrubs/trees like Magnolia (m. x soulangeana) are older than we think. The species and non flowering vegetation that bear leaves, needles and cones – these evergreens can produce attractive colour interest, often blue. (Firs) Abies koreana, abies pinsapo ‘Glauca’, (conifers) Cupressus, Chamaeyparis, Cedrus (cupressus leylandii, chamaeyparis lawsonia, cedrus deodora), Pinus sylvestris (scots pine) all have a tenuous link to prehistoric times and are still here. Lichens, Mosses and Algae seem to point to where it all began as you would expect with our transition from water to land.
Ferns – Dicksonia anartica – the tree fern can reach up to 6 m in the right conditions. Other smaller varieties include deer fern, Blechuum spicant an attractive variety that good for shade in enriched soil. Polypody vulgare – common polypody is another that is suited to shade. It is tolerant of dry, gritty areas which make it ideal for cracks in walls.
A plant which is more of a nuisance than anything else but pre dates us is Horsetail. (Equisetum) It can reproduce itself by a fraction of its growth. Each segment is in effect a new plant. It is highly invasive, roots deeply and spreads quickly. It makes it difficult to treat since the waxy exterior is non – penetrable and needs to be cracked for anything to be absorbed.
Palms too are known to have evolved early. Chamaerops humilis – the mediterranean palm offers dwarf varieties and larger specimens. A hardy specimen that will love full sun where soil is free draining. Although discovered a lot later in the 19th century, Tracycarpus fortunei will have distant roots to the earliest of palms. A hardy variety but to shelter from winds and particularly colder climes. The reason perhaps some plants survived mass extinctions was the protection and efforts to keep them in cultivation. Gingko’s or Maidenhair tree exist still – you have the Chinese monks to thank for that.