World of Plants - Discovery

Plants first colonised Earth around 500 million years ago. They have since evolved from their aquatic origins to the diverse range of flowering and non-flowering plants we know of today.

World of Plants - Secret Life of Trees

The first evolution saw plants advance from aquatic and algal-like to seedless vascular land plants such as ferns, about 360 million years ago.

Oriental Vessel Fern

Also known as giant fern for fronds reaching up to 6 metres in height, the oriental vessel fern reproduces from spores found on the undersides of its leaflets, with the aid of moisture. Interestingly, the young, unfurling fronds of this fern are said to have inspired the scroll design of violins and cellos!

Approximately 300 million years ago, vascular plants evolved to produce naked seeds. Cycads are one such example.

Whitelock Cycad

Native to Uganda, this cycad can grow up to 4 metres tall and has stiff, upright fronds with toothed leaflets. It has separate male and female plants. Male cones contain pollen while the oval-shaped, female ones produce seeds which scatter when the cones burst open upon maturity.

Then, about 130 million years ago, flowering plants first appeared on Earth.


A medium-sized tree with drooping blooms that are valued for its scent, ylang-ylang’s long and narrow flower petals occur lime-green at first before turning yellow when mature. The aromatic flowers are steam-distilled to produce two essential oils, ylang-ylang oil and cananga oil, widely used in perfumes and aromatherapy.

Written by: Choo E-Hui, Manager (Partnerships, Programming)

E-Hui likes the simplicity of her name. Don’t ask her why it's spelled as such or attempt to shorten it further without the hyphen. She will get a little annoyed (just so you know!). In her own time, she enjoys tennis though feels she's just a mediocre player.

This article is part of our World of Plants series.