The climate in what is now Europe was dry during the Permian. This coniferous tree had needle-like leaves with relatively small surface areas in order to reduce the risk of dehydration. The cones also protected the seeds from drying out.
Sphenophyllum was a horsetail with a jointed stem. From each stem grew six rounded triangular leaves.
Many Sphenophyllum fossils are preserved with neighbouring stems close together, which palaeontologists interpret as an indication that they grew in dense clusters in order to support each other.
Sphenophyllum thonii had rounded leaves and probably grew in forest undergrowth. Some other species had hook-like outgrowths on the tips of the leaves, which enabled them to climb on other plants. That helped Sphenophyllumto grow higher and gain access to more sunlight.
Gigantopteris nicotianaefolia grew in great forests in the tropics of what is now Eastern Asia. It belonged to a group of plants that were comparatively complex. For example, some had leaves that evolved into tendrils, which enabled them to climb on other plants. Other leaves had networks of veins, which provided three advantages: efficient distribution of water throughout each leaf; better ability to cope with high rates of transpiration and stronger resistance to attacks by insects.
Alethopteris conferta was one of several tree ferns that lived in what is now Europe. They were remnants of the forests of ferns which predominated during the Carboniferous. They became extinct when the climate changed in the middle of the Permian.
The fronds could be up to one metre long, and grew from the fern’s trunk which has been given the name Psaronius.
When the Earth’s climate changes, it results in better chances of survival for some organisms than for others. Among the plants that survived the transition from a wet to a drier climate during the Permian were the conifers.
Ullmannia bronii had rather small leaves and small, compact cones, which helped to minimize the amount of water lost through transpiration.
If you look closely at this fossil, you can see tiny holes in the leaves. They were made by feeding insects. By studying plant fossils, scientists can gain knowledge about plant-eating insects that are seldom preserved as fossils.
In the tropical forests of Eastern Asia, Gigantopteris was one of the most common plants, and thereby one of the most important food sources for insects.
Most plant fossils represent only small parts of the whole organism. But this unique fossil of a fern has preserved the entire plant. That makes it easier to reconstruct the plant and understand its way of life. It was small and lived in a forest near a river. It was probably dislodged by a small flood, then floated downstream and sank to the bottom of a lake where it was buried in sediment and gradually became a fossil.
Many cycads grew in fairly dry environments that did not provide good conditions for preserving them as fossils. Thus, there are not many cycad fossils to study, which makes it difficult to determine which other plants they are related to. Research is being conducted on Plagiozamites to determine its relationships with other species.