An amazing diversity of land plants from many time periods, including some species dating back 400 million years, are found in Scotland. The primitive plant specimens from the Rhynie chert rock layers in Aberdeenshire are among the best preserved Devonian period plants on Earth. Formed as volcanic hot springs bubbled and spewed silica-rich liquids into the air, the fossils at Rhynie are so perfectly preserved in extreme detail that even the cell and vascular structures of the stems are clearly visible. The plants grew low to the ground, around 10-25 centimetres in height. Their structure and ecology are unlike any plants living today, and as such they shed light both on plant evolution and the environmental conditions in which they flourished. In association with the plants there are the remains of mites and spider-like animals these together with the plants form the earliest complete terrestrial wetland ecosystem yet found on Earth.
Looking at a freshly cut slice of Rhynie or Windyfield chert under the microscope is like peering into an ancient world that has remained unseen for about 400 million years. What an amazing privilege!”