359.2 to 205 MYA
Catalog Number: CG-0009
My daughter found this Lepidodendron specimen during a quick expedition to explore exposed shale along a steep roadside hill. It was lying alongside the road on a raised dirt pile on top of the soil. PennDot probably unearthed this while making road repairs. This piece is from the neighboring Gilpin Township Locality. It is the best example of this species I’ve found to date.
The location was below the Ames Limestone. The Ames boundary is less than a mile from this site, located at the hill’s peak. The exposure only has a few immediate exposed rocks. I have not yet had time to explore them up close. This fossil comes from the Glenshaw Formation. However, since it was next to state road construction, anything is possible regarding stratigraphic placement.
In the 1800s, it was not uncommon to find fairs or other venues showcasing these as the fossil remains of giant snakes or lizards.
A Tall Late Carboniferous Tree
Lepidodendron reached great heights, with specimens over 100 feet tall and trunks over 3.3 feet in diameter. Unlike most trees today, this tree reproduced using spores. Having a short 10-15 year life cycle, they would obtain a great size and quickly fall upon death. Since life had yet to evolve a method for consuming wood, these trees littered the forest floors. They were part of the plant life that created the great abundance of coal.
The Fossil Matrix
This example is not the first example of Lepidodendron I have found. Unfortunately, the previous one was in softer shale. As a result, the scale appearance of the bark was well eroded and not easy to examine. Nevertheless, this specimen in sandstone is exceptional and my finest example. If we imagine its history, the tree likely fell into an ancient sandy riverbed, a seashore, or became covered by sand during a flood.
Lepidodendron from Alabama
Both of these specimens come from the Mary Lee Coal in Alabama. The matrix preserves the leaf scar patterns with high resolution.
Additional Information on Lepidodendron
- Wikipedia Article – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lepidodendron
- Encyclopedia Britannica –
- The Rise and Fall of the Scale Trees –