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Summer/Fall
2014
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Fossil Cycad Cone

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The extinct, fossil, cone bearing cycadeoid from southeastern Utah, donated by Betty Lemkau of Castro Valley, was partially identified by Walt Wright at the 5th annual Petrified Wood Identification Workshop. Signage now briefly explains its story. It was found in southeastern Utah near Cycad Hill north of Arches National Monument. The finder sat on it to eat lunch before he recognized what it was. It is a cone bearing plant that was intermediate in form and biology between a fat fern and a short palm tree, but it is more closely related to conifer trees. Our specimen shows numerous small female cones.

Like the living male cycads in the ancient forests exhibit, its male cones produced pollen, but when the pollen germinated it probably released motile sperm to fertilize the seeds as happens in living cycads and Ginkgo trees. Modern cycads are either male or female, but the fossil form may have had both genders in one plant. It still needs some cleaning and polishing. Someday our specimen may help clarify the biology and taxonomy of this poorly known group of early plants.

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