Fossil Grove

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Fossilised tree stumps and root systems in 1977
Garden surrounding the Fossil House

The Fossil Grove is a group of fossils located within Victoria Park, Glasgow, Scotland. It was discovered in 1887 and contains the fossilised stumps and roots of eleven extinct Lepidodendron trees,[1] which are sometimes described as "giant club mosses" but are more closely related to quillworts. The Fossil Grove is managed as a museum and has been a popular tourist attraction since it opened for public viewing in 1890.

The site, Glasgow's most ancient visitor attraction and the remnants of an extensive ancient forest, is viewed from within a building constructed to protect the fossils from the elements.

Description[edit]

The Fossil Grove is on a 23 m (75 ft) by 10 m (33 ft) floor of an old quarry, and belongs to the same geological time period as several other groups of Lepidodendron fossils found northwest of Glasgow.[2] The shales and sandstones exposed around the fossils belong to the Limestone Coal Formation of the Clackmannan Group, with the shale containing imprints of various plant remains. The strata were deposited approximately 325 million years ago when the trees were still alive, and the strata are now folded and cut by many faults and slant downwards to the northeast. Beds of coal and some ironstones can be found in the northern and eastern parts of the Grove. The quarry in which the fossils were found is an igneous dolerite sill that was intruded into the sediments and two of the trunks during the Early Permian period approximately 290 million years ago. The quarry was already mostly excavated when the fossils were found, with the dolerite being used to macadamize nearby roads.[3]

The stumps themselves are internal casts of the hollow trees, representing the huge cortical meristem of the trees rather than the woody interior. The remnants of trunks belonged to Lepidodendron veltheimianum trees and the root systems were Stigmaria ficoides.[3] Most trunks are 1–3 ft (0.30–0.91 m) in diameter and 2–3 ft (0.61–0.91 m) tall, and a single larger stump stands in the western part of the grove, measuring 3–4 ft (0.91–1.22 m) in diameter. Some fossils have small wrinkles on their exterior, suggesting wrinkled bark, but fine details are poorly preserved in the fossils. The roots have the dichotomous branching pattern indicative of Stigmaria and extend over 10 ft (3.0 m) from the trunks. The trees would have grown during the Carboniferous period when Scotland was a more tropical area, situated near the equator. The trees grew in a low, swampy environment that would often flood. The distribution of the trunks suggests that the Grove was once part of a Paleozoic forest that was chiefly composed of Lepidodendron trees.[4]

The sandstone in the Grove is covered with shale that was deposited as mud, and this deposit of sediment likely killed the trees. The soft tissues of the cortical meristem and inner phelloderm of the trees then decomposed and made the trees and root systems hollow, and subsequent flood waters both broke off the upper, missing portions of trunks and filled the hollow trees with sand. Ripple marks on some surfaces indicate a south-western flow of the flood waters. The trunks were then buried and lithified, and became molds in the surrounding sandstone. The sand inside the trunks became solid rock, and the outer bark of the trees became a thin layer of coal. Though some trunks are elliptical, especially the tallest, Lepidodendron trees were typically circular. The deformations were likely caused by the force of the rising flood waters that filled the trunks with sand, as indicated by the tendency for the deformations to be in the same direction as the ripple marks, towards the south-west.[5]

Besides the fossil stumps, the only other indications of organic life in the strata of the Fossil Grove are Arenicola burrows found in some sandstone beds.[2]

History[edit]

In 1885 part of the Scotstoun estate was leased to create a park, and the Fossil Grove was discovered in late 1887 when a pilot channel was cut through an old quarry in preparation for the construction of a road in the park.[3] In April 1888 members of the Geological Society of Glasgow suggested to leave the fossils in situ and construct a building around the fossils. The commissioners of Partick elected to leave the fossils where they were uncovered and in 1889, at a cost of about £400, constructed a building to contain the fossils. On 1 January 1890, the Fossil House covering the Fossil Grove opened to the public. The wooden roof timbers of the House were replaced with metal trusses in the 1920s. A bomb damaged the roof and a single trunk during World War II, and a concrete spacer replaced the center of the damaged trunk. The windowed roof was replaced with regular roof panels in the 1970s, and most recently the Fossil Grove and the surrounding area was renovated in the 1990s by the Museum service of the Glasgow City Council. Today the Grove is maintained by the Land and Environmental Services Department of the Glasgow City Council, and is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.[3][2]

Visitor information[edit]

The Fossil Grove is open from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. only on Saturdays and Sundays, from April to September, and the surrounding park is always open. The Fossil House has stone and tarmac paths and a few stone steps, and is wheelchair accessible. The walk around the entire quarry is about 400 m (1,300 ft) long. Admission is free.[6]

About 50 m (160 ft) east of the Fossil House is an oak sculpture of a Lycopod tree with a giant centipede. The sculpture was constructed in 2014 to commemorate the 20th Commonwealth Games.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Patrick Wyse Jackson (2010). Introducing Palaeontology: A Guide to Ancient Life (illustrated ed.). Dunedin Academic Press. p. 119. ISBN 9781903544426.
  2. ^ a b c Young, John; Glen, D. Corse (1888). "Notes on a Section of Carboniferous Strata, containing Erect Stems of Fossil Trees and Beds of Intrusive Dolerite, in the Old Whinstone Quarry, Victoria Park, Lower Balshagray, near Whiteinch and Partick" (PDF). Transactions of the Geological Society of Glasgow. Geological Society of London. 8 (2): 227–235. doi:10.1144/transglas.8.2.227.
  3. ^ a b c d e Iain Allison and David Webster (2017). A Geological Guide to the Fossil Grove, Glasgow (PDF). Geological Society of Glasgow. ISBN 978-1-901514-51-3.
  4. ^ Albert Charles Seward (1898). Arthur E. Shipley (ed.). Fossil plants: a text-book for students of botany and geology. 1. C. J. Clay and Sons, Cambridge University Press. p. 57.
  5. ^ Gastaldo, Robert A. (1986). "An explanation for lycopod configuration,'Fossil Grove' Victoria Park, Glasgow" (PDF). Scottish Journal of Geology. Geological Society of London. 22 (1): 77–83. doi:10.1144/sjg22010077.
  6. ^ "Fossil Grove". Geological Society of Glasgow. 2017. Retrieved 6 September 2018.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°52′36″N 4°20′18″W / 55.8767°N 4.3382°W / 55.8767; -4.3382