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Prehistoric Plants

Published on August 15th 2018

by Helen_Allsebrook. All rights reserved

Recently a member of the Candide Community asked for information about prehistoric plants; these are the guys that predate any formal plant documentation but can be found in fossils across the country.
Unsurprisingly, they are often extremely resilient plants and can be quite hard to get rid of in the garden!
Here's a small selection which you probably quite commonly see but maybe didn't realise were such long-lived, resilient warriors...


Horsetail often crops up in the garden and is a magnificent, sculptural plant if you let it reach its full potential. Its spiralling structure with needle-like leaves I find a really exotic, mysterious addition to a garden but beware, it likes to spread so keep a close eye on it. It's been dated back to the late Cretaceous period, 145–100 million years ago. It's also meant to have medicinal properties, promoting kidney and bladder function and often found in teas and health foods (but please research thoroughly before considering taking a munch; it certainly doesn't look too appetising!).

Horsetail Restio

Elegia capensis


At one time ferns were one of the largest plants to grow on earth. They haven't got smaller, but other plant species have grown much bigger. There is plenty of evidence in fossils to say they were around 350 million years ago.

Staghorn fern

This fern seems to be growing in popularity as a houseplant at the moment. Its common name is given due to its stag antler-shaped leaves. In the wild, it can be found growing in tiny crevices and surprisingly can grow without any soil at all, much like an orchid.


Found growing outdoors in South America, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, these flowing plants date back 65 million years to South African rain forests. They are commonly used in flower arranging for their big, bold and unusually furry characteristics.


The Magnolia has always seemed an unusual, waxy plant to me. Being 142 to 65 million years old could explain it. These plants were around before bees and many pollinators we know today, so relied on other insects such as beetles to secure their existence.

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