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400 Million Years of Plant Evolution in just fifteen feet

Trewithen's Gary Long unveils a botanical journey through 400 million years of plant evolution.

Gary Long, Head Gardener of Trewithen estate near Probus, hopes to show 400 million years of plant evolution in just fifteen feet using specimens from the garden.

He said: “I was inspired by the discovery of some ‘prehistoric’ looking grasses growing in the woods at Trewithen, which emerged at the same time as some Charles Darwin stories in the news. I put two and two together and came up with the idea of using Trewithen plants to illustrate Darwin’s theory of evolution.”

Trewithen's purple pride rhododendron.

Gary explained that in the plant world although many species have evolved they are not extinct and still grow today. The Trewithen stand at the Royal Cornwall Show, which this year takes place from 4-6 June, will be designed to represent three formative horticultural time zones. The earliest period represented will be the Devonian/Carboniferous era – about 408-290 million years ago. Plants from this period are very simple, known as vascular plants, and will include algae, mosses, horsetails and ferns.

Ferns growing at Trewithen's subtropical gardens in Cornwall
Tree ferns growing at Trewithen Gardens in Cornwall

The Triassic/Jurassic era – 245-144 million years ago – the age of dinosaurs – will be the second time zone. This period saw seed bearing plants evolving to escape the threat of being eaten and herbivores taking advantage of a new food source. Trewithen plants on display will include conifers, Ginkgos and palm trees.

The final section of the stand covers the last 130 million years ending at the present day. This period saw the appearance and development of flowering plants. Magnolia, for which Trewithen Garden is renowned throughout the world, are one of the oldest and most primitive of the flowering plants. They will feature in the stand alongside many other celebrated flowering plants from the garden including Azalea, Hosta and Rhododendron.

Sunlight shining through grasses at the Trewithen Estate in Cornwall

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