In most popular descriptions of Mesozoic flora I come across a similar trope of the dominant plants of Mesozoic ecosystems. I call them the "Mesozoic Big Three" because although they carry a large amount of the load the contributions of other players is often neglected due to the emphasis on their roles.
1) ferns- the ubiquitous ground cover of the Mesozoic, generally any dinosaur drawing will have a couple of these guys dotted across the landscape- usually under trees because ferns don't grow in full sun right?
2) cycads- somehow this slow growing palm looking dude was everywhere during dino times. We know it was slow growing because modern cycads are simply living fossils unchanged since the Mesozoic, right?
3) conifers- Just throw a couple of x-mas tree looking dudes in there and your Mesozoic landscape is complete!
Well hopefully your sarcasm detector was on (sarcasm can be a bit hard to convey in written form) and you were able to see that I am trying to convey how our modern perspectives on these plant groups may in fact color how we view their past relatives. Ferns, generally seen as obligate shade plants, can survive in full sun with adequate moisture. Modern cycads are not unchanged since the Mesozoic and may not in fact be an ideal proxy for Mesozoic cycads. And the classic x-mas tree shape of pines is due to their adaptation to surviving in climates where heavy snow fall occurs. Mesozoic conifers, evolving in conditions lacking heavy snowfalls, may have more closely resembled the Lebanese cedar pictured above.
The "Mesozoic Big Three" pictured above. Pine tree looking conifers, cycads and fern ground cover.
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