Fall Colors Show in 15 Million Year Old Leaves

By: Ann Northrup

Ann Northrup spent her undergraduate years at the University of Michigan, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in microbiology….

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There is an extraordinary sediment deposit containing preserved plant leaves in Clarkia, Idaho. The plant remains are evidence of the unique forest present in Idaho forests during the Miocene era. Some species are immediately recognizable such as Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). Others are extinct species. Immediately after splitting the sediment layers, revealed leaves begin to turn dark due to oxidation, but that first glimpse of the fall coloration of broadleaf plants from 15 millions years ago is pretty amazing. Dr. Chris Martine, from Bucknell University in Lewiston, Pennsylvania, hosts a video series about plants called “Plants Are Cool, Too!”.  Episode 2:  Fossilized Forests is a 15-minute video of the fossil site and can be seen on YouTube, search: fossilized forest.