By Steven L. Stephenson
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Extra resources for A Natural History of the Central Appalachians
Some examples appear to have been vinelike and others shrub-like, but the largest seed ferns were tree-sized and exceeded a total height of more than thirty feet. The leaves of a seed fern were very large, having a width of more than four feet and a length of 0 2 HISTORY OF THE FLORA AND FAUNA of the inside of the trunk, which essentially served as a mold. Such a fossil is called a pith cast, and pith casts are among the most commonly encountered fossils of Calamites. As with Lepidodendron, reproduction in Calamites involved the production of spores, but the presence of a large underground stem (or rhizome) also allowed Calamites to develop extensive clones.
The shrub-vine layer and the sapling layer generally co-occur in the same horizontal space above the forest floor, since individual shrubs and saplings are usually no more than a few feet tall. There are exceptions, and large shrubs such as great laurel can attain the size of a small tree (fig. 21). Saplings, unlike shrubs, can be considered transitory occupants of this layer. If an individual sapling survives and continues to grow, it eventually becomes part of the understory. This does not happen with shrubs.
Although Cordaites itself would never be confused with any modern conifer, it had close relatives on the drier, upland sites during the latter part of the Carboniferous with leaves that were needlelike, like the more familiar conifers of today. In chapter 3 the overall pattern of present-day forest vegetation in the Central Appalachians will be described. indd 37 coal swamp forests, the landscape of the region during the late Carboniferous would have consisted of a mosaic of forest types. Although the region was generally flat, with meandering rivers and shallow lakes, there would also have been a scattering of small elevated areas (hummocks) and even hills.
A Natural History of the Central Appalachians by Steven L. Stephenson