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‘Living fossils’ take root

The newest addition to our Gardens features some of the oldest plants on earth. The Prehistoric Garden is a display of ‘living fossils’ – plant and tree species that have survived from the time of the dinosaurs.

Framed by trees from the period – a yew, redwood and Lawson cypress – the garden highlights plant species including ferns, horsetails, cycads and tree ferns, all known to have been growing in prehistoric times.

At the centre of the display is a prized Wollemi pine, a species thought to have been extinct but, amazingly, discovered in 1994 in an Australian location that is kept secret to preserve the species for future generations.

Wesley Shaw, our Head of Horticulture, says: ‘You won’t find any flowering plants in the Prehistoric Garden. Instead these ancient species reproduce using spores, or seeds borne in cones – and they are true survivors, living fossils that have been part of our world for hundreds of millions of years. These amazing trees and plants would all have been a familiar part of the habitat, and diet, of dinosaurs so it’s really a salad-bar for stegosauruses.’

The new display is also home to a life-size sculpture of one of the era’s predators – a velociraptor, in 8mm mild steel, by Neil Bowen of Lakeland Steel Ltd in Cumbria – keeping a prehistoric eye on the modern London skyline.

The Prehistoric Garden, designed to complement the our current exhibition Dinosaurs: Monster Families, will be a permanent addition to the Horniman Gardens, thanks to £8,000 funding from Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme. The supermarket teamed up with Groundwork to launch its Bags of Help initiative which saw grants, raised from the 5p bag levy, made to environmental and greenspace projects.

The Prehistoric Garden is free to visit, and can be found at the highest point of the Gardens, which were this week awarded their 12th consecutive Green Flag Award, the mark of quality for parks and green spaces. Our Nature Trail has also been awarded its eighth Green Flag Community Award.

Dinosaurs: Monster Families is open until Sunday 30 October 2016.