Lepidodendron lycopodioides

Alexis writes:

We continue the prehistoric plant series with this fossil (noted to be about 22cm long), showing the branches and thin leaves of Lepidodendron lycopodioides. Thank you to the user Woudloper at Wikimedia Commons for the photo.

Lepidodendron species were a dominant plant species in the Carboniferous period, and lasted until the late Permian. Also called scale trees or giant club mosses, they used spores to reproduce and were tree-like in habit, growing over 30m tall with branches splitting in twos (an illustrated reconstruction). However, support for their large bodies came not from their wood, which only existed as a thin strand in the centre of the trunk, but from their thick bark. On their branches and trunks, Lepidodendron species had distinctive diamond-shaped scales called leaf cushions that denoted where leaves used to be (Andrews’ Studies in Paleobotany (1961)); these unique patterns are often seen as fossil impressions.

The arborescent lycopsids are known to have grown in peat swamps. Most of the coal deposits found in the eastern US and western Europe today originated from the bark of arborescent lycopsids. Different lycopsid genera are classified by the shapes of leaf cushions and position of vascular strands. Their closest living relatives appear to be the diminutive clubmosses and quillworts, groups of fern allies incomparable to the stature of Lepidodendron.

Lepidodendron lycopodioides

7 responses to “Lepidodendron lycopodioides”

  1. Dale Chadwick

    I am enjoying this series on fossil plants. Suggest you consider including the fossil site in Clarkia, Idaho. Researchers have been able to extract DNA from these Miocene leaves.

  2. Trisha in Texas

    Reminds me of visiting my grandmother when I was a kid. She lived in Limestone County, Texas, where everything was paved with limestone caliche. A person could pick up rocks off the side of the road and find fossils. I would always bring home a collection of fossils of plants and sea life.
    I agree with Mr. Chadwick, it has been fascinating to have prehistoric plants this week.

  3. Jan

    This series is fascinating, thanks for putting it up

  4. elizabeth a airhart

    i too have memories of visting my grandparents
    in indiana, crawfordsville,and visting thier famous stoneworks
    looking for fossil imprints is part of growing up
    thank you

  5. Elaine Chrysler

    I am really enjoying this prehistoric plant series. this site is always interesting, informative and beautiful, I look forward to it each day.

  6. Elizabeth Revell

    I believe – but it’s a long time since I read this – that the pillars in part of the Natural History Museum in London are patterned with stylised Lepidodendron diamond impressions … can anyone confirm?

  7. Megan

    I remember finding Lycopodium plants in the woods around my grandparents’ house when I was small, and my dad would tell me that they were among the last of a lineage that once produced these giant scale trees. To this day, when I walk in the woods, I always keep an eye out for these plants, thinking about the great forests of the Carboniferous.

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