30 May 2016 10:13
The UCD Evolution of Plants Garden will be exhibited at this summer's Bloom in the Park festival. Bloom, sponsored by Bord Bia, is one of Ireland's largest horticulture and food festivals and takes place in the Phoenix Park, Dublin from 2nd - 6th June.
The garden represents Ireland's first ever Bloom entry from a university.
The UCD Evolution of Land Plants Garden visually tells the story of plant evolution on land. Visitors walk along half a billion years of land colonisation by plants, beginning with algae that moved out of freshwater, followed later by mosses and liverworts, ferns, gymnosperms (cycads and conifers), and finally angiosperms (flowering plants).
Animal and human life is only possible on Earth because plants provide oxygen, habitats and food.
The evolution of plants through geological time has culminated in the diversity of species we see around us today. Across forests, savannahs, deserts and grasslands, from tropics to northern boreal regions, a staggering range of plant life exists. Plant types include ferns, trees, grasses and crops, and provide essential food for all life on Earth.
But this wasn't always the case. Plants emerged from water and appeared on land over 500 million years ago. Considering that Earth is an estimated 4.5 billion years old, this development is relatively recent. The earliest plants on land took simple forms such as mosses and liverworts, with later-evolving plant groups developing various survival strategies and innovations. This resulted in further diversity and complexity. And with that plant diversity came the co-evolution of animals, including humans. Plants produce the majority of food which humans consume today.
This timeline of evolutionary innovations throughout the history of plants is hard to imagine, and this often proves a complex task in the education of students.