This is a highly detailed fossil of a Sigillaria sp. plant, displaying exquisite preservation from the Carboniferous Period of the coal deposits of southwest Poland. Associated on the rock are other numerous related fossilized plants found in the same layer. Thin seams of coal running deep in the rock, can be seen surrounding the main stem. Very few fossils of plants from this period and site are found of this size and quality. Most are very small, fragmentary and weathered. A plant fossil such as this offers a glimpse into the past plant life of the planet when amphibians were the apex predators and sole rulers of the Earth. The flora of this period must have been not only stunningly beautiful, but very alien in appearance compared to what we are used to today.
A spectacular quality fossil showing beautiful, lifelike detail of extinct flora of a European swamp forest from over 300 million years ago!
During the Carboniferous Period, a large portion of Europe and North America was on the equator. The warm and consistently humid climate was ideal for the growth of extensive swampy forests. The Paralic Basin was the largest Carboniferous basin which comprised regions of what are now Ireland, England, northern France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany (Ruhr District) and Poland. Periodic changes in the sea levels caused the rivers that traversed these forests to flood, depositing massive amounts of sand and mud thereby burying the forest along the banks. In a period of one million years, several thousand meters of sediment would be deposited, densely packing and pressing the abundant vegetation into flattened rock fossil impressions. The most common vegetation in these forests were Sigillaria and Lepidodendron.
Lepidodendron and Sigillaria are lycopods, or more commonly known as club mosses. They belong to the lycophytes group, today only represented by a handful of small herbaceous forms. While they were giant tree-sized plants, Lepidodendron and Sigillaria are not actually classified as trees but are very unique types of plants that died out hundreds of millions of years ago. Both grew to amazing heights exceeding 100 feet with stems over 6 feet in diameter! Their branches were draped with long, grass-like foliage of spirally arranged leaves and cones containing spores. Lepidodendron is famous for its unmistakable scale-like bark. The plant was anchored at the base, not by a deep root system, but by several shallow running Y-shaped branches called stigmaria. The upper branches at the top of the plant terminated in cigar-shaped cones called Lepidostrobus. Depending on the specific species of Lepidodendron, these cones contained either small or large spores, or both. The presence of Lepidodendron fossils suggest a very hot and humid environment existed where they once thrived.