The late Triassic period was when dinosaurs ruled the earth the most, and many vascular plants flourished. The ferns, conifers, ginkgo, cycadophytes, and arborescent horsetails were popular.
These flowering evergreen trees provided an all-year supply for our leaf-eating dinosaurs because they kept their foliage. This article will look at plant life that existed when dinosaurs ruled the earth and which plants still exist today after the dinosaurs.
Triassic plants (251.9 – 201.3 million years ago)
This was the period of the Mesozoic era when dinosaurs started to appear after evolving from reptile forms called Archosaurs. During the Triassic period, the fauna’s popular plants were the conifers and cycadophytes, but before their popularity, many plants were weeded out before them during the Permian extinction.
During the Permian extinction, the earth lost 70 percent of its terrestrial beings and 95 percent of marine species due to high temperatures in the earth’s climate and changes in the oceans. Plant families such as horsetails and large club mosses became extinct, and new forms flourished.
The earliest species of gymnosperms started to appear as well as seed ferns, ferns, and tree ferns. You would also find ginkgophytes, liverworts, yews, filincophytes, lycopsids, and araucaria, also known as the monkey puzzle tree. The reappearance of clubmosses, smaller horsetails, and mosses was also there.
Smaller dinosaurs like Lesothosaurus, the Plateosaurus, and the Heterodontasaurus would most likely feed on the low-lying plants.
At the beginning of the Triassic period, all the continents we know today linked together to form one whole continent called Pangea. In the middle of the Triassic period, Pangea was broken up into two continents, creating a southern part called Gondwana, which englobed South America, Africa, Australia, India, and Antarctica. The Northern part was called Laurasia, and it englobed Eurasia and North America.
The whole of Laurasia mostly had conifers, ginkgos, bennettitaleans, and cycads for vegetation, while Gondwana was dominated by forests with seed ferns like Dicroidium and Thinnfeldia. However, conifers and cycad fauna dominated both the southern and northern parts by the Triassic period.
Jurassic plants (201.3 – 145 million years ago)
More land-living vertebrates marked the transition from the Triassic period to the Jurassic period. There was still a problem with global climate change during this transition, but it did not compare to the Permian extinction impact. This global climate change issue was present because Pangea continued silently breaking apart, which influenced the atmosphere, and brought on some ups and downs in the climate.
The dinosaurs were dominant land vertebrates during this period, when many large sauropods emerged, such as the Diplodocus. Conifers were dominant during this period as they were in the Triassic period. We had club mosses, ferns, seedphytes, and ginkgophytes.
New plants that started to sprout in this period included, Williamsoniella, Williamsonia, and Caytonia, which is the plant that gave way to the first flowering plants. Thanks to the wet and warm climate, this was favorable for an abundance of life and vegetation.
We also had the presence of small to medium-sized dinosaurs like the Stegosaurus, Dryosaurus, and the Kentrosaurus. These herbivore dinosaurs also grazed on low-lying vegetation such as ferns, seed ferns, clubmosses, horsetails, and some conifers that grew on the surface. There was also the appearance of pines, metasequoias, and cypress.
Cretaceous plants (145 – 66 million years ago)
The race of the dinosaurs continued to survive and multiply during this period. By the end of the Jurassic period, a few large dinosaurs from the Sauropods classification became extinct, including the Apatosaurus and the Diplodocus. Other large dinosaurs, such as the Titanosaurus, started to appear.
This period marked the rapid appearance of flowering plants (angiosperms). Some flower species started to emerge at the end of the Jurassic period. By the end of the Cretaceous period, a generous amount of flowers sprouted and dominated the vegetation. These flowering plants were a source of nourishment for herbivore dinosaurs such as the Hadrosaurs.
We had barberry, magnolias, and laurel among these flowering plants that we still have today. The ancestors of sycamores and palm trees were present too. Many spices also began to exist as scientists named Ge Sun, and David Dilcher discovered what is considered the oldest angiosperm fossil. It is called the Archaefructus liaoningensis, which according to analysis, is closely related to the black pepper plant and is more than 122 million years old. Grasses came into existence much later.
Other trees still exist today from the Cretaceous period are the Maple, Birch, Willow, Sequoias, Oak, Walnut, and Beech tree. Fruits such as grapes and figs also came into existence.
According to fossils records, leaves and angiosperm pollen 140 million years ago, and by 90 million years ago, many flowering plants of modern families were well represented in fossils. These families include Plataceae (Sycamore), Calycantheaceae (sweet shrub), Magnoliaceae (magnolia), Buxaceae (Box), and Lauraceae (Laurel). By the end of the Cretaceous period, many more plant families developed while the dinosaurs ruled the earth, and many of these species are very present today.
The end of the Cretaceous period also saw another period of extinction with mammals, dinosaurs, and marine life. Still, the fauna did not receive too much of this impact as many just grew back again after climate change and volcanic eruptions.