Lepidodendron

359.2 to 205 MYA

Scientific Classification

Kingdom:

Plantae

Phylum:

Lycophyta

Class:

Lycopodiopsida

Order:

Lepidodendrales

Family:

Lepidodendraceae

Genus:

Lepidodendron

Species:

Sternberg 1820

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. This specimen was probably unearthed while PennDot was 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 peak of a hill. The exposure only has a few immediate exposed rocks. I have not yet had time to explore them up close. This fossil comes is from the Glenshaw Formation. However, since it was next to state road construction, anything is possible as far as stratigraphic placement goes.

In the 1800s, it was not uncommon to find fairs or other venues showcasing these as the fossil remains of giant snakes or lizards.

Lepidodendron fossil in sandstone.

A Tall Late Carboniferous Tree

Lepidodendron was able to reach great heights, with specimens observed to be over 100 feet tall with 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 is not the first example of Lepidodendron I have found. Unfortunately, the previous one was in softer shale. The scale appearance of the bark was well eroded and not easy to examine. This piece set in sandstone is exceptional and my finest example. Imagining its history, the tree likely fell into an ancient sandy riverbed, a seashore, or became covered by sand in a flood.

The temporal range of Lepidodendron is 359.2 to 205 million years ago.
The temporal range of Lepidodendron is 359.2 to 205 million years ago.

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.

Lepidodendron from the Mary Lee Coal.
CG-0228 Lepidodendron
Lepidodendron obavatum from the Mary Lee Coal.
CG-0227 Lepidodendron obavatum. This specimen is considered a different species, yet it may simply be a younger tree or a younger part of a larger tree.

Additional Information on Lepidodendron