How Plants Began to Grow on Land

Leaving Shalimar's oceans posed many problems for Shalimar's plants. So long as the plants were in the water they could not dry out, or be sun-burned, or collapse because of the force of gravity. Although there was more light on land, getting that light was dangerous.

The little carpet plants were probably the first to venture out of the water. Where these small plants clung to rocks they could be exposed to air as the tides rose and fell. Those who survived short exposures to the air became the parents of new generations of plants better suited to life in the intertidal zone. Adapting to the new and brighter world took many millions of years.

As the carpets grew landward, they developed tougher exteriors. They caught water in their tangle of tiny stems. They spread out over the rocks like tiny scrubber sponges, holding water from the tides and the frequent rain. They were not even half an inch high.

There were spaces between the rocks where there was sand. The rocks kept the sand from burying the plants, and the damp sand facilitated the carpets' first experiments with roots. Little by little dead plant material was mixed with the sand, providing an environment where microscopic organisms could live. Soil was beginning to form.

Storms splashed the zoospores of other plants onto the land, and other types of plants began to grow in the environment provided by the carpets. Eventually small spikes appeared, growing out of the carpets. Little by little the carpets spread inland, and the conquest of the land by plants was on its way.

© Elizabeth Anne Viau, 1996. This material may be used freely for instructional purposes but not sold for a price beyond the cost of reproduction. Please e-mail me at if you use this material. I'd be interested to know how it works for you!