Fossil Grove




sketch by Chris Meadows (1880's) taken from
Transactions of the Geological Society of Glasgow. 8, 227

Fossil Grove can be found in the attractive Victoria Park in the west end of Glasgow.  Victoria Park was landscaped to commemorate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria and to provide much needed employment to the suffering former shipbuilders during the depression in the industry at that time.  It was while they were clearing the base of a quarry in the grounds of the park in 1887 that the tops of the trunks were seen immediately below a dolerite sill.  The 330 million year old trunks were carefully excavated and preserved as a public attraction within a specially erected building which opened on January 1st 1890.



Photograph of the site soon after excavation in 1888.

The site is still run by the Glasgow City Council who take great pride in what is one of Glasgow's major prehistoric attractions.  The discovery and the trees are described in two papers dating to 1888; one by John Young (of the Hunterian Museum) with Corse Glen and the other by R. Kidston (see references below).  More recently Alistair Gunning, of the City Museum and Art Gallery, Glasgow, wrote a very attractive booklet all about the story of Fossil Grove and its trees (see references below).  The building that surrounds the trees now was recently renovated and the trees cleaned and prepared.


There are at least 10 erect trunks and root systems exposed of the clubmoss tree Lepidodendron veltheimianum and Stigmaria ficoides (the latter being the roots of the former).  There are also parts of trunks lying across the floor of the quarry.  The trees were submerged in sand and clay as sea level changed.  Rippled sands, similar to those found on the lower reaches of present-day beaches, provides evidence of water currents moving between the trunks depositing sediment.  The trees grew in an equatorial or tropical mangrove swamp similar to the everglades of Florida (The equator was close to East Kilbride at that time).


After the clubmoss trees had died, their soft interiors quickly rotted to leave them hollow.  Their trunks then filled with sand before the sediment around them enclosed them completely.  The organic remains of the trunk became a thin coal separating the sandy interior from the shales and sands surrounding the trunks.  During an episode of volcanic activity, a thin dolerite sill was intruded about 90cm above the floor of the quarry cutting through the trunks.  Some slight earth movements have caused the sediments (and the trunks) to tilt slightly, sloping gently towards the NE, but the slight distortion of the trunks themselves are likely to be due to palaeocurrents rather than tectonism (Gastaldo 1986).

See also the Geological Society of Glasgow pages with an article on Fossil Grove.


References:
Gastaldo, R. A. 1986. An explanation for lycopod configuration, 'Fossil Grove'
        Victoria Park, Glasgow. Scottish Journal of Geology. 22, 77-83.
Gunning, A. 1995. The Fossil Grove. Published by Glasgow Museums. 24 pp.
Kidston, R. 1888. Note on the nature of the fossil trees found at Whiteinch.
          Transactions of the Geological Society of Glasgow. 8, 235-236.
Young, J. and Glen, D. C. 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. Transactions of the Geological Society of
          Glasgow. 8, 227-235.


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