Plant Cycad

Fossil crow’s nest?

The branching base of cycad stems are beautifully preserved in Isle of Portland rocks. Quarrymen who found them thought they were fossilised crows’ nests – you can see why.

Finds were much commoner 100 years ago than today. This may well reflect the move to modern machinery – fossils are less likely to be spotted when the overlying fossil forest is quarried away in order to get to the Portland Stone.

We have retained the name ‘cycad’ here because it is so popular and commonly used but strictly speaking they belong to a group known as the ‘Bennettitales’, which are a parallel branch to the cycads. Cycads and Bennettitales belong to the Gymnosperms which also includes conifer trees and the Ginkgo tree, which is another ‘classic’ living fossil that can be found in parks and gardens across the UK today.

Find out more on the wood and plants page.

Common name

Plant Cycad

Scientific name



Wood & Plants


Purbeck Limestone Group, Lower

Time period

Upper Jurassic


142 million years

Where found


Found by



Dorset County Museum, Dorchester

Accession number