Fossil Grove

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Best Places to see Scotland’s Geology: Fossil Grove

The trees of Fossil Grove were discovered during the creation of Victoria Park, Glasgow in 1887. The area had formerly been a whinstone (dolerite) quarry and on excavation of the quarry floor to create a path through the park, the fossilised tree stumps were discovered. The authorities of the day thankfully chose to excavate the trees, shelter them from the weather and make them available for future generations to view, in what was one of the earliest acts of geoconservation. Fossil Grove is one of the most famous in-situ Carboniferous forest examples in the world.

There are eleven trees at the site, with the tallest stump reaching 68cm in height. Each is an internal mould, cast from sediment infilling the toughened bark that remained after the softer, inner plant tissue rotted following the trees’ death. When the trees were first discovered, carbonaceous material formed from the bark itself also existed, but this has sadly decomposed in the following years.

The trees were lycopods (probably Lepidodendron) and exhibit both the base of the stem and the rooting system, Stigmaria. They stand in shale, though were buried by siltstone and sandstone, indicating an influx of sediment caused by long term flooding of the area. Shale is then seen to overlie the siltstones/sandstones; this is typical of the cyclic nature of Scottish Carboniferous sedimentary sequences. This particular sequence occurs in the lower part of the Limestone Coal Group and is Namurian in age (approximately 325 – 315 millions of years ago).

cs_fossilgroveFossil Grove in Glasgow’s Victoria Park – fossil tree stumps in their original position of growth. The original height of the trees has been estimated at 30m. © Scottish Natural Heritage.

Fossil Grove is operated by Glasgow City Council’s department of Land and Environmental Services. For opening times, visit their website http://www.glasgowmuseums.com/.

Further reading:

Cleal, C.J. & Thomas, B.A. 1995. Palaeozoic Palaeobotany of Great Britain, Geological Conservation Review, Series No. 9. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough, 295 pp.

Lawson, J.D. & Weedon, D.S. 1992. Geological Excursions around Glasgow & Girvan. Geological Society of Glasgow.

MacFadyen, C.C.J. & Gordon, J.E. 2006. Glasgow and Ayrshire – A Landscape Fashioned by Geology. Produced by: Scottish Natural Heritage & British Geological Survey.