Living Fossils of the Plant Kingdom

Janae White
Graduate Student, Rackham, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Pencil drawing


This herbarium-style freehand pencil drawing features four ancient plant lineages that have species alive and thriving today. The Horsetails, Ginkgo trees, Magnolias, and Ferns we see outside all have ancestors that lived during the time of the dinosaurs. These plants can be found right here on campus or in the surrounding parks. I inspire you to take a look and see how many you recognize on your next walk!

I’m a huge plant nerd and wanted to share my love of botany and art with this piece. I focused on Horsetails, Ginkgo trees, Magnolias, and Ferns – all plants of ancient lineages with ancestors lived during the time of the dinosaurs. Many of their fossils look almost exactly like the living specimens we see today!

With this drawing I aim to:

  1. showcase eight very common plants found on campus and the surrounding area
    that are evolutionarily much older than many people realize.
  2. open viewers eyes to the intricate details, including taxonomic names, that make
    these plants stand apart and shine
  3. inspire people to take a second look at the plant they just walked by – and get
    excited about it!

I created this freehand drawing using pencils on paper and in the style of an herbarium sheet. I specifically picked plants that I’ve seen before so I could use my own photos and pressed specimens as references. Although my goal was to create drawings that were as realistic as possible, nature isn’t perfect and neither am I. I allowed myself the creative freedom to bring these plants to life through my own lens.