Taxonomy

Isoetes is a genus of small, often aquatic plants collectively known as quillworts because of the hollow base to their leaves, like a quill.

They look like short tufts of tough grass, although in fact they are not flowering plants at all, but are the modern-day survivors of a group of plants that was previously more diverse, and much more dominant, many millions of years ago.

Their fossil record dates back to the Triassic Period, and they are more closely related to the huge Lepidodendron trees which formed the vast swamp forests in the Carboniferous that have created the deposits of coal still being mined, and burned, today.

You can see reproductions of Lepidodendron trunks with their characteristic diamond pattern of old leaf scars on some of the columns within the Natural History Museum, for example along the first floor galleries on either side of the central hall.

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