Evolution of land plants display

The evolution of land plants display consists of a walk through a sunken dell charting the most important stages in the evolution of plants on land, from the first aquatic green algae, to flowering plants. This ‘evolutionary walk’ takes the form of a journey through geological time from the Cambrian to the Cretaceous using appropriate rocks and fossils to reflect the passage of geological time. Living representatives from the various groups of modern land plants appear along the walk within the geological time zone when they first evolved – mosses, liverworts ferns, and horsetail, in the Devonian, cycads, Ginkgo and other conifers in the Permian and Triassic and flowering plants in the Cretaceous period.

Chilean monkey puzzle, Araucaria araucana

The display is home to some unusual plants like Wollemi Pine, Wollemia nobilis, for many years thought extinct and known only from fossils dating back 200 million years, until a small relict population was discovered in 1994 in Eastern Australia just north of Sydney. It grows alongside the closely related Chilean monkey puzzle, Araucaria araucana (pictured) with its broad, hard scale-like leaves each armed with a sharp point. Both trees are young plants and have leaves clothing the branches and stems. The display ends with a display of flowering plants that first evolved in the Cretaceous period. The spring flowering Magnolia sprengeri var.diva with huge deep pink flowers and the summer flowering Magnolia sieboldii with nodding white flowers are planted against a backdrop of bay laurel Laurus nobilis and winter’s bark Drymis winterirepresenting some of the most ancient flowering plant families.