Fossil Puzzle 

Dinosaur Skin? Guess again!
The answer:


This is a sample of fossilized bark from an extinct tree that lived during the Carboniferous period around 325 million years ago.

Related to the insignificant club mosses or quillwarts that grow in today's swamps, the lofty lepidodendron grew in dense thickets as high as a hundred feet tall with scaly bark patterned by spiraling leaf scars.

Palm-tree like trunks were topped by a bushy canopy of evenly branched greenery. Instead of leaves, the branches were covered by mossy needles.

These giants dominated the first, silent forests of Tennessee.




Above is a depiction of a forest from the Carboniferous period of the Palozoic, about 325 million years ago. Notice the tall, "scale bark" lepidodendron



Lepidodendron started out as bottle-brush shoots surrouded by spiral leaf branches that fell off as the tree enlarged, leaving diamond-shaped scars.

Trunks could grow up to six feet wide at the base, tapering smoothly into slender upper branches that split symmetrically. The lack of growth rings suggests these early trees preferred a swampy year-round climate.

Appearing long before the evolution of seeds or flowers, Lepidodendrom reproduced using spores from cones at the branch ends. Click here for more information about the interesting scale-bark trees of the past.

Crinoid Branch

This fossil stump was collected in Campbell County, Lafollette, Tennessee.