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Plants: Gardens: Conifer Forest

Conifers have had a long and noble history. They have been around since the days of the dinosaurs: in fact, 150 million years ago they were the most prevalent plants in the landscape, since flowering plants had not yet come into their own.

Conifers belong to a large, hardy group of plants that produce seeds in the protected, tightly clustered structures we know as cones, which are actually the tree's fruit. Although many people think of them as cold-weather plants, conifers can thrive in many different climates, including the tropics. Both the largest living tree and the oldest living tree are conifers.

The Safari Park's Conifer Forest, which displays more than 1,000 plants representing 400 species of conifers, has an important claim to fame: it is home to one of the few North African cypresses left in the world.

And if this is the Conifer Forest, then what are cycads doing here? These survivors from the fossil age are, in fact, related to conifers--they are evergreen and reproduce by means of cone-like structures. Cycads are considered among the most primitive of plants and many species are endangered. The Cycas revoluta is considered particularly ancient, since the cones of the female plant and the male plant are only loosely structured.