The dinosaur plant, or Selaginella lepidophylla, is one of the oldest species of plant on earth, existing for nearly 300 million years. The plant gets its name because it coexisted with dinosaurs during the Carboniferous period, even becoming their food. Because of its ability to survive for many years without water, the dinosaur plant is also referred to as the resurrection plant.
During the time of dinosaurs, the dinosaur plant grew to be up to 120 feet tall, but the plant adapted to the climate changes during the Ice Age and is now much smaller in size. Today, dinosaur plants are only about 4 inches in height when full grown, and appear much like a moss or small fern.
Dinosaur plants are native to the deserts of Mexico and Texas. They grow in abundance in Texas' Big Bend National Park. Dinosaur plants usually grow in dry areas that are semi-shaded. They can also thrive in humid areas, but do not do well in cold climates.
Dinosaur plants have survived so long due to their ability to survive for long periods of time without water. When there is no water to be found, such as during a drought, the dinosaur plant curls itself into a ball and enters a state of dormancy, in which it does not need water to survive. Once in a ball shape, the wind pushes it great distances. Eventually, the plant lands near water and spreads itself out once again. Dinosaur plants have survived in their curled-up, dry state for up to 50 years.
The dinosaur plant has very shallow roots which curl up with the plant during dry spells. When the dinosaur plant finds water, the roots spread out and can take up water directly. The dinosaur plant contains special fluid-conducting tissues which allow the plant to collect water quickly through the roots and become rehydrated.
The dinosaur plant reproduces with single-celled spores. It does not generate fruits or seeds like more complex species of plants.
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