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Mike's Blog - Day 57

At last something with a common name that makes more sense, Shuttlecock ferns, Matteuccia struthiopteris in the woodland garden.

Ferns reproduce by spores not seeds. Often you can see where the spores are dispersed from on the underside of fern leaves, little brown dots or brown stripes. This fern is a bit different however, its fronds are mainly green and sterile, but it does produce separate fertile fronds  as well. These can clearly be seen as the dark brown fronds on the outside of the main green fronds.

These are one of my favourite ferns, very reliable, pest free and easy to look after.

Ferns, mosses, horsetails and many other “simple” plants have been on the planet much longer than the flowering plants. Many were much bigger than their modern day relatives and are now extinct. There are lots of fossils of course, including one we have on the lawn by the greenhouse. This is a 310 million year old giant tree fern, Cordaites. It was found locally, at Great Lumley, when they were quarrying. Quite an unusual find as although there have been plenty of fossilized leaves found the soft fibrous trunks would have decomposed very quickly inn the tropical climate that these trees grew in.

What’s though to have happen is the trees were blown onto a river during a storm then deposited and buried in river sediment, leading to their burial and ultimate fossilization. How was it found locally if these trees needed a tropical climate? – Of course in the last 310 million years the continents have slowly drifted and moved, all those years ago “Durham” would we somewhere near Nairobi.

You’ve got a fair chance to find a plant fossil at Seaham beach, info here:

http://www.durhamnature.co.uk/countydurhamfossilpage.html.

And here is a website dedicated to Cordaites, including pictures of “the find”:

http://www.cordaites.com/.