This specimen is a 20,000,000-year-old fossil imprint of a Metasequoia frond. It was recovered from private land in the Muddy Creek Formation of Montana. An acrylic stand for display and informational photo card are also included.
The towering Metasequoia tree was thought to have gone extinct during the Miocene until a living member of the species was found in 1946. The living fossil was saved from extinction and today can be found all over the world.
📸 A Sample Metasequoia Frond in the acrylic stand
The Leaf of a Living Fossil
The towering Metasequoia is a prehistoric tree that dates back to the age of dinosaurs. These giant conifers thrived until the Miocene when they disappeared from the fossil record.
In 1946, paleobotanists identified similarities between the fossil and endangered redwoods in China and realized the genus had survived to the modern age. Today, they are considered a living fossil and are found in tree gardens worldwide.
This specimen in a fossil leaf imprint from an Oligocene Metasequoia tree. It was recovered on private land in the Muddy Creek Formation of Montana and is over 20,000,000 years old.
Each fossil comes with a small, acrylic stand. Use of the stand is optional but when we tried it out at MMHQ we knew we had to send it along. Every fossil has a unique leaf pattern and no two are alike. They measure roughly 2"-4" in size.
The matrix surrounding and protecting the fossil is a bit too large for our regular cases, and frankly they are best displayed in the open. So, we've opted to carefully wrap each frond and ship them in sturdy containers for protection.
Every fossil also comes with a classic acrylic stand to display right out of the box. A small information card which serves as certificate of authenticity is also included.
📸 MODERN METASEQUOIA IN AUTUMN
MORE ABOUT DAWN REDWOODS
📸 A Sample Metasequoia Frond
This Metasequoia fossil comes from the Muddy Creek formation of North America, dated to the Late Oligocene epoch over 23,000,000 years ago. Spread over portions of California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, Muddy Creek was a fluvial environment, well suited to support the towering Metasequoia glyptostroboides trees that grew there.
The genus was first described in 1941, discovered among Mesozoic fossils by paleobotanist Shigeru Miki. Metasequoia fossils had been known since the 19th century, but they were erroneously categorized under the other two extant species of the subfamily: Sequoia sempervirens and Sequoiadendron giganteum. Miki noticed that these new fossils had needles that grew in linear precision opposite each other and had smaller cones. Its name referenced the similarity between the fossil's leaves and modern-day sequoia trees. As it turns out, this link was closer than scientists realized.
Within the same year as the fossil discovery, a new living tree species was found in China's Hubei province. Though locals were well aware of the massive tree and even used it in a local shrine, this so-called "water fir" was unknown to science before 1941.
Samples of the tree were collected for identification, though the emergence of World War II postponed further study. Finally, in 1946, professors Zheng Wanju and Hu Xiansu made an incredible connection: this tree was a living sample of the 150,000,000-year-old Metasequoia fossils.
The identification was further confirmed in 1948 when paleobotanist Ralph Chaney visited the living tree to find out if the fossils he was studying had indeed survived to the modern day. It was, in fact, a true living fossil.
The now-identified Metasequoia trees were spared from destruction by logging, which may have saved them from extinction. Chaney also collected seeds from the living specimen to send to botanical gardens around the world.
These trees, also called dawn redwoods, top out at a towering 165 feet, but they face stiff competition from their taller cousins. "Hyperion", a Sequoia sempervirens in California, holds the record of the tallest tree on Earth at 380 feet and has lived for around 750 years. Dawn redwoods, by contrast, are the smallest member of the redwood family.
Metasequoia glyptostroboides still grows in China, supported by river valleys that mirror the Muddy Creek formation’s ancient waterways. The trees thrive in this moist soil but also grow in arboretums worldwide, with preservation efforts sparing the trees from extinction.
Redwoods are threatened by logging and wildfires but the trees continue to survive dangers both human and natural, their fossilized remains appearing much the same as the trees that still grow today.
Front of the Specimen Card
Back of the Specimen Card
LePage BA, Williams CJ, Yang H, eds. The Geobiology and Ecology of Metasequoia. 1st ed. 2005. Springer Netherlands; 2005. doi:10.1007/1-4020-2764-8
Tweed WC. King Sequoia: The Tree That Inspired a Nation, Created Our National Park System, and Changed the Way We Think About Nature. 1st ed. Heyday; 2015.
Vermaas L. Sequoia: The Heralded Tree in American Art and Culture. Smithsonian Books; 2003.