SPECIAL NOTE: The current laws in this region of Germany have forbid the collection of fossils since 1986 with this quarry specifically, being closed and protected by state law. Legislation has permanently ended the hope of ever securing any new specimens as this one being offered here. This incredible piece comes from an old German private collection and was collected long ago before the ban was enacted.
Words simply cannot do this piece justice. It is really a specimen that MUST be seen in person. Standing alongside it is an amazing experience and the detail in the fossil just does not convey in photographs. Most plant fossils are small so this remarkable example is truly in a class all its own. A piece like this is not only priceless in its scarcity, but the beauty and aesthetic it possesses can turn any interior into an instant shrine to natural history when displayed.
The pleasing warm cream, light brown and gray shale showcases a stunning COMPLETE BRANCH of a Dicksonites pluckenetii fossil seed fern, with all its fronds. Very few fossils like this are found on our planet and one that is as attractive as it is rare is nothing short of a masterpiece of our planet's natural history. Immeasurably more rare than the fossil palm fronds from the MUCH later Eocene Period, you see offered on a regular basis from the Wyoming, USA, Green River Formation!
Dicksonites was a prehistoric pteridosperm, a giant seed fern that was a climbing plant rather than being a true spore-producing fern. These plants were important as they were THE FIRST TRUE SEED-PRODUCING PLANTS ON OUR PLANET! Fragments of fossil tree fern branches are common but a COMPLETE giant seed fern branch with the main stem and radiating fronds, is an incredibly rare occurrence. The fossil is on a rock that was rather frangible and necessitated having the fern removed in numerous pieces and the pieces reconstructed. Damage due to extraction and repair required about 15% - 20% restoration of destroyed leaves and fronds. The entire fossil has also been sealed to stabilize the fragile layers in many areas to protect the fossil from fracturing and to increase contrast to show off the detail. The overall thickness of this slab is approximately 1 inch and has been reinforced with steel and epoxy.
With the majority of large plant fossils coming from the Eocene deposits of the Green River Formation in North America, a plant fossil of this magnitude and completeness, coming from the Permian Period, puts in in a class all its own. This seed fern fossil comes from a time BEFORE the first dinosaurs and the geological era it dates to, marks the most dramatic planetary extinction event in history.
Although it looks very similar to a modern fern, the seed fern plant Dicksonites pluckentii was not a true fern because it produced seeds instead of spores. More importantly, these pteridosperms were THE FIRST PLANTS TO PRODUCE TRUE SEEDS! Seed ferns thrived in the lush warm and humid environments of the Carboniferous Period where they formed huge swamps and forests that would later become massive coal beds. As more advanced forms of plants emerged, seed ferns declined, finally going extinct with the dinosaurs in a mass extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous.
The earliest fossil evidence for plants of this type is the genus Elkinsia of the late Devonian age. They flourished particularly during the Carboniferous and Permian periods. Pteridosperms declined during the Mesozoic Era and had mostly disappeared by the end of the Cretaceous Period, though some pteridosperm-like plants seem to have survived into Eocene times, based on fossil finds in Tasmania.
Their discovery attracted considerable attention at the time, as the pteridosperms were the first extinct group of vascular plants to be identified solely from the fossil record. In the 19th century the Carboniferous Period was often referred to as the "Age of Ferns" but these discoveries during the first decade of the 20th century made it clear that the "Age of Pteridosperms" was perhaps a better description.