Primordial plants bring beauty and health to the modern world | Bangkok Post: lifestyle

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Primordial plants bring beauty and health to the modern world

First appearing on the planet around 300 million years ago, many of the lushly foliaged, 400-plus species in the genus 'Selaginella' are used as herbal remedies today

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Selaginella, collectively known as spike moss, are not your ordinary kind of plants. Classified among the "lower plants" for their lack of flowers and seeds, they belong to a group which dominated the Earth's surface long before flowering plants and trees made their appearance. Fossil finds trace their origins to the Carboniferous period 290-354 million years ago. As a genus, they comprise more than 400 species worldwide. 

One of Thailand's leading taxonomists, the late Tem Smitinand, listed 16 Selaginella species in his volume titled Thai Plant Names, but it is possible that since he compiled the book in 1980 and its revision by the Forestry Department's Forest Herbarium in 2001, more have been identified. In any case it's a good bet that more are waiting to be discovered in their natural habitats. Herbaceous, creeping, erect or sprawling plants with branching, scale-like leaves, several species can be found in organically-rich, moist forest floors and near streams while others, such as Selaginella tamariscina and Selaginella lepidophylla, grow in dry, rocky habitats.

‘Selaginella willdenowii’ is commonly known as peacock fern because of its iridescent, bluish-green leaves.

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