A Dinosaur Forest

What’s called a moss, but isn’t a moss?

What looks like a conifer, but isn’t a conifer?

What’s related to ferns, but isn’t a fern?

These small seedless vascular plants (the same general group that includes ferns and horsetails) are Lycopods, or, confusingly, “clubmoss,” even though actual moss is a nonvascular plant and very different. I can only remember seeing them a couple of times in Ohio but here in Wisconsin there are places in the forest where they seem to completely carpet the ground. The novelty of them makes them fascinating to me – that, and the fact that they are the most ancient and primitive group of vascular plants.

This, I’ve decided, is my Festival of the Trees submission for the month. What do these tiny plants have to do with trees? Millions of years ago, before the tall canopy-creating plant niche was taken over by gymno- and angiosperms, dinosaurs walked in forests that were actually comprised of enormous, tree-sized Lycopods. And where do we draw the line between tree and not-tree, anyway – at what point in their evolutionary history did they lose their arboreal status? Get your eyes (and camera lens) down to ground level and imagine a miniature stegosaurus browsing here – or maybe you won’t have to imagine if a robin comes hopping through, since after all taxonomically speaking birds are dinosaurs.

My very own Jurassic Park, right outside my door.

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11 thoughts on “A Dinosaur Forest”

  1. Spongebob Squarepants!

    Oops, wrong show. ;)

    I can imagine a miniature stegosaurus in those pictures. But I think it would be even better if you bought some plastic dinosaurs and took some more pictures for us. :D

    1. Though I must have learned about their life cycle in college botany, I had to look it up on Wikipedia to refresh my memory after reading your comment. You’re right, it is interesting!

    1. The first time I spent a summer in this part of the country (three years ago now; how time flies) another student in the program I was in knew them as “princess pine.” This led to some confusion when we had an assignment to identify all the conifer species on the property…

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