DIRK WIERSMA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DIRK WIERSMA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Lepidodendron is an extinct genus of treelike plants that were related to the Lycopsids (club mosses), a class that made up a large part of the lush vegetation in the extensive swamps of the Lower Carboniferous era. The Carboniferous is the 300 to 360 million years old geological period that accounts for most of the coal reserves on earth. Lepidodendrons could grow very tall, 30 to 40 meters and thus were larger than many trees. The long thick trunks had no or very few branches except for a crown of leaf bearing branches on their tops. This picture shows a fossil branch covered with the distinctive diamond-shaped scales called leaf cushions that denoted where leaves used to be. Descendants of the Lycopsids are still living today, but only as tiny mosses. This chunk measures 50 cm across and is from Upper Carboniferous deposits near Piesberg, Germany.
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