The 'Fossil Forests' of Nova Scotia:
A Review of the Literature
Part One

Summary of this Paper

Fossil trees are found on virtually every continent.  Sometimes they  are found  lying  prostrate on, or  upright -- and extending -- above the surface of the ground;  however, in most cases such trees are buried entirely within the strata itself, in either prostrate, oblique, or upright positions.  When many upright trees are found in one location, they may be termed a "fossil forest."  In the United States alone such  "forests" have been found in Alabama, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania,  Missouri,  Montana, Ohio, Tennessee, West  Virginia, and Washington state. Similar deposits are found in England, Germany and  France.  However, the most extensive such "forests" in North America are in Western Nova Scotia, near the town of Joggins.  Here, along the coast of the Bay of Fundy, approximately 14,000 feet of sedimentary strata is exposed in the face of  the cliffs  with large sections containing upright fossil plants and trees.  Similar deposits are also in  Northern Nova Scotia  along the coast near the town of Sydney, and, to a  lesser extent,  in other parts of  the Province.  The beds at Joggins and Sydney consist mainly of  alternating layers of  sandstones, shales, coals and coaly shales, along with mudstones, clays, and occasional limestones.  In many  cases argillaceous material (i.e. clay) is mixed in with the shales and sandstones. 

This paper examines, or rather re-examines, various individual sections of  the Joggins and Sydney strata that were -- at the time of publication -- said to represent  in situ  forests which  were inundated again and again by what are often referred to as localized river floods.

The evidence presented herein suggests that the upright fossil plants and trees in the Nova Scotia strata were not buried in their original places of growth, but rather were uprooted by catastrophic influences, transported and re-deposited by water, perhaps by a Worldwide Flood.  Evidence is also presented, both for and against the allochthonous and autochthonous theories of coal formation.  This evidence suggests that the long-held  autochthonous (in situ) theory for the accumulation  of this coal may be incorrect.  


Introduction
For the past 150 years the Nova Scotia strata has been interpreted by most geologists as
in situ  continental deposits laid down on river flood plains.  According to Dr. John Calder, this interpretation is too restrictive and others (such as myself) believe that this view is incorrect.  One of the first things which led me to question this interpretation were the drawings themselves.  It seemed strange to suggest that many of the fossil trees have "extensive  root systems" yet the pictures and drawings of them do not.

The term polystrate fossil 1 is now often used to describe fossil trees that are upright in relation to  the surrounding strata.  Such trees quite often traverse multiple layers of  horizontally  deposited strata: including sandstones, shales, and sometimes even  coal seams. 2  Upright fossil plants range in size from small rootlets, to trees over 80 feet long. 3  Nova Scotia, has perhaps more upright fossil  trees and  plants than  any place on earth.  At Joggins alone, erect trees and plants occur at over 50 "levels" scattered throughout  7,500 feet of strata; 4 erect roots and rootlets occur at many more "levels." 4  Drifted  plants and  trees also occur in  many sections of this strata.  These drift deposits are scattered over more than 10,000 vertical feet of strata.4,5,6   Most of the upright fossil trees at Joggins are from 2-15 feet in length.  The longest was 40 feet. 7  Many, if not most, of the upright fossil trees at Joggins have little or no visible traces of  roots. 8  In addition, many  of the larger  Stigmaria roots are  missing their  rootlets 3 and  many, if not most, rootlets are buried individually: unattached to any tree, or larger root.8, 9  Fragile fossils such as leaves are also common in the Joggins and Sidney strata.10  Animal tracks, insects, and rain marks are also found, although they are not nearly as common.  The strata at Sydney is also said to be very similar to that of Joggins. 11


Obscure Journals and Old Books 
Although there is enough data on fossil trees, tree stumps and roots to perhaps fill a 200-400 page book,  much of it is only accessible with access to large University libraries, document provider services, and from books over 100 years old: half of which is in German.12  One of the few articles in English that was devoted to this topic was by Prof. Rupke.  In it he remarks that:

“... I am of the opinion that the polystrate fossils constitute a crucial phenomenon both to the actuality and the mechanism of cataclysmic deposition.  Curiously a paper on polystrate fossils  appears to be a ‘black swan’  in geological literature.  Antecedent to this synopsis a systematic  discussion  of  the  relevant  phenomena was  never  published.  However, geologists must have been informed about these fossils.  In view of this it seems unintelligible  that  uniformitarianism has  kept  its  dominant position." 13 **

This was also hinted at by Schrock when he stated that:

“No attempt has been made to compile an extensive bibliography on the subject of buried stumps, trees, and similar structures, but the following references contain the essential literature: ...”  14 

And while Schrock's references were  used in the preparation  of this paper, they are only a small portion of the available data on this subject.


Are Present Deposition Rates the Key to the Past?
The a priori assumption of many geologists is that the massive flat-lying,  sheet-like, sedimentary  deposits which are stacked, one upon the other, and found  throughout the world took hundreds  of millions of years to deposit.  Such a hypothesis is known as uniformitarianism; however, it is inadequate to  account  for  much, if not most, of  the fossil-bearing strata.  Some  people,  who pride  themselves as truth-seekers, seem to think that they must, at all costs, force-fit their conclusions so that  they always fall into an evolution-based / semi-uniformitarian /  Old Earth philosophy.  Others  pretend  as  if  they  won the debate long ago with regard to how we arrived on Earth, and  that it should  "hereafter never... be questioned". 15  Unfortunately for  the cause of science, this has resulted in an almost paranoia of  writing anything that remotely resembles a catastrophic viewpoint.  For to do so might subject one to  ridicule, risk  alienating  colleagues,  and  perhaps  endanger one's very career in the field  of evolutionary thought - also often referred to as "science."  In other  words, an evolutionary view, no matter how unscientific it may be, is the only opinion that  will be tolerated when discussing our origins.  Therefore an  Old Earth is absolutely essential,  and those who challenge it are often labeled enemies of  "science," or "religious" fanatics in an attempt  to quickly dismiss the data, and the debate, no matter how valid the contrary evidences may be.  For if  the Time-curtain is lifted all can (and likely will) see that the evolutionary house must be torn down -- leaving  the entire scientific community with nothing at all to say regarding our origins, and therefore greatly reducing their priest-like positions of societal influence.

Therefore, in an attempt to quell the debate,  the only type of  floods that are allowed in the "scientific" literature today are small localized ones.  Thus, the sedimentary strata from the Coal  Measures of  Nova Scotia are often said to have taken many millions of  years to deposit.  For example, consider the  following proclamation by Ferguson with  regard to the Joggins strata:

"These layers of sediment were originally laid  down more or  less horizontally but are  now tilted to the south at an angle of  about 20 degrees..." with "the top of the layers to the south,  so as you walk northwards up the beach towards Lower Cove you are actually passing by progressively older rocks, retracing the earth's  history perhaps hundreds or thousands of years with every step." 16  **

Sir William J. Dawson, or  John W. Dawson,  was the author  of  Acadian Geology.  Dawson's book provides us with what is perhaps the most detailed description of the Joggins strata in print.  It  was first published in 1855.  Later  editions followed.  Dawson was a  protégé of  Sir Charles  Lyell,  and  although he was a  Christian  who believed  in  a Creator and rejected  the philosophy of evolution apart  from  Divine intervention, he nevertheless accepted the theory of  uniformitarianism, and taught that  many of  the  upright trees at Joggins and Sydney were entombed in  their original  positions of  growth.

 

Examples of  Upright Trees from the Joggins area:
The drawing below shows an erect tree overlying the Joggins Main Coal seam. 17 This is the only tree from the Joggins area  that Dawson depicted which also has attached  roots.  Details  with regard to its burial  and  their implications are discussed below. 

 
15 foot tree imbedded in layers of Sandstone and shale

  1. Shale and sandstone.  Plants
      with Spirorbis attached; 
      Rainmarks (?)
  2. Sandstone and shale, 8 feet.
      Erect Calamites.
  3. Gray sandstone, 7 feet.
  4. Gray shale, 4 feet.
  5. Gray sandstone, 4 feet.
  6. Gray shale,  6 inches. Prostrate
       and  erect trees, with rootlets;
       leaves;  Naiadites;  Spirorbis 
       on  the Plants.
  7. Main coal-seam, 5 ft. in two
       seams.
  8. Underclay, with rootlets.  (An
       erect coniferous-? tree, rooted
       on  the  shale,  passes  up through
       15   feet of the sandstones and 
       shale.)  p. 198

 


Comments on the 15 foot Tree: 
The most obvious evidence for rapid burial is the tree itself: that it was buried before it had time to decay, and that its top is as well-preserved as its base.  The roots are about  two feet long and appear to be truncated.  The fact that its top was broken off  is a  clear indication  it  was taller, perhaps by another 5-10 feet.  The fact that its roots appear to be truncated suggests that it may have been uprooted from its original place of growth, and re-deposited in  this strata.  Note also that this tree was thought by Dawson to be coniferous, and that such trees (at Joggins) are almost always found in "drift" strata, and  are discussed in greater detail in Part Two of this paper.

Although it is possible that the roots of this tree were not broken off, but  only appear  that way because the cliff-face below the tree may have fallen out.  However, if this were the case we would expect Dawson to have said so.  We would also (still) expect to see small rootlets below the tree, yet such are not depicted.  This suggests either that there were no rootlets present or that Dawson omitted them.  However, since he did record such rootlets in the underclay of level 8, and in other  drawings it seems unlikely that he would have omitted them unless there were none to record.

The Calamites: Calamites are extinct segmented plants similar to Equisetum or Horsetail.  Virtually all of the Calamite fossils at Joggins are preserved as sandstone casts.  In some cases the outer bark appears as a thin layer of carbonaceous material.  The fact that Calamites are preserved as casts is  an indication that  they had hollow interiors.  In the 1855 edition of  Acadian Geology, four of the Calamites are depicted with their lower parts missing.  This suggests that the Calamites also may not be in their original  positions of  growth  but rather were part of the marine drift deposit of section 1.  It  also suggests that  later drawings of  this section were altered to give the  in situ  interpretation for the Joggins strata -- and thus the swamp theory  of  Coal formation -- a greater degree of acceptance.

Note: It is entirely possible the later altered drawings (from 1868 on) were simply an innocent mistake;  however, it is also possible that Dawson both knew about it and/or approved of the changes.  This may also be the reason  for his seemingly arbitrary division between the "Shale and sandstone" of section 1,  which according to Dawson contained drift-plant fragments, from  the "Sandstone and shale" of section 2.

Lack of Distinct Soils: There is an absence of a distinct soil in sections 2 and 4, where the Calamites  and the tree roots are entombed.  This is indicated by an almost complete  uniformity  of  the surrounding sediments, and by the fact that they are layered.

Horizontal Strata: The fact that this strata displays a high degree of lateral continuity suggests that there was little time between deposition of the layers.  Even if  only a  few years separated each layer then we would expect to see evidence of this in the form of erosion between the layers.  The  fact  that we don't see this suggests there was very little time  between the deposition of these layers. 18

Extremely Thick "Layers": The fact that sections 3 and 5 are not  stratified,  but rather  composed  of  a single, homogeneous "layer" suggests rapid deposition.  The "layer"  in  section 3  is  seven feet thick.  The fact that the tree crosses the entire layer negates the possibility that it was deposited  slowly over hundreds or thousands of years.  This strongly suggests that these (two) layers were  probably  laid down  in a very short period of time -- perhaps only minutes, hours or days apart.  

The Coal: Although it is not apparent from the picture above, the coal in the main  seam is also layered or stratified -- an indication that the coal itself was deposited as sedimentary layers of  decayed plant  or animal remains.  This layering is clearly evident in the detailed view of this drawing. 19, 20
   

If this coal formed as a result of multiple forests,  then  we  should  see evidence of this in the form of bioturbation: which would (in  theory) erase or prevent layering.  This is what Dawson  said with regard  to the 'underclays' 21 so why should it not apply to the coals as well.  Furthermore, if this  coal resulted from a slow-growing forest, then we would not expect fragile fossils such as leaves and fern fronds to be well-preserved within the laminations, yet they are.  In  fact, according to Dawson,  some of  the coals at  Joggins are composed almost entirely of leaves.


The Mysterious 40 Foot Fossil Tree:
  
Dawson's account:

"Let us now endeavor to form an idea of the trees of this singular genus.  Imagine a tall branchless or sparsely branching  trunk,  perhaps two feet in diameter, and thirty feet in height.  (One has been traced to the length of forty feet in the roof of the Joggins main coal-seam ).” 22 **

This is all the information Dawson provides.  He doesn't say whether it was upright, or  inclined,  or  prostate; but, he does provide one valuable piece of information: its location.

Lyell's account (of the Joggins strata) :

"Wither I  went to see  a  forest of fossil coal-trees, the  most wonderful phenomenon, perhaps that I have seen, so upright do the trees  stand, or  so perpendicular to the strata ... trees 25 feet high, and some have been seen of 40 feet, piercing the beds of sandstone and terminating downwards in the  same beds, usually coal.." 23 **

If these two trees were one in the same, then not only was this tree upright, but it may have pierced more than just sandstone. This is because, according to Dawson: it was "in the roof of the Joggins main coal-seam."  Note that the 15 foot tree pictured previously is itself in the roof of the Joggins Main seam.

We are only given two more clues.  One  is on page 165 of  Acadian Geology (1868 Ed.) where  Dawson says that there are "Erect trees at one level."  The other is Dawson's drawing above where "erect" trees are at two levels.  Therefore, the 40 foot tree may have been at the same level as the 15 foot tree,  or it  may have been with the other stumps in section 6 of  Dawson's drawing  (section 7 below ).  Therefore,  if  these trees were one in the same, then the drawings below provide some idea what it may have looked like.

40 foot tree passing through sandstone, shale and coal

In either case, it would have passed through the coal seam between sections 2 and 3 above.  This seam is (or was) from one to four inches thick. 24  This strongly suggests that this  seam,  and  the strata around it, was deposited in rapid sedimentary fashion.  Perhaps this is why Dawson and Lyell provided so little information and why neither of them provided an illustration?

In one publication, Dawson mentioned large prostrate trunks in the roof of the Joggins Main coal seam: one of which was 30 feet long; 25 however, Dawson never said whether the 40-foot tree was prostrate or erect.  In spite of his silence in this regard, it seems that some  have  interpreted (?)  this to mean that the 40 foot tree was prostrate.26  Although this is possible, it seems more reasonable that the 40 foot trees that were mentioned by Dawson and Lyell were one in the same (tree), and that Dawson didn't say  it  was prostrate because he didn't want to lie, yet he didn't want to say it was upright because an upright  tree of  this size that traversed multiple beds of strata (including a coal seam) would not have helped the in situ hypothesis for  coal formation: something that both Dawson and Lyell were trying to prove.  

After the first writing of this paper, it was discovered that Dr. Abraham Gesner also reported seeing a 40-foot fossil tree in this strata as well, and he mentions it on p. 159 of a book he wrote on the Geology and Mineralogy of Nova Scotia in 1836.  So it is possible that Dawson and Lyell were simply referring to what Dr. Gesner reported -- and/or by personal communication with him.

If however, these trees were not one in the same, then (from a geological perspective) it means that we know virtually nothing about the largest upright tree ever found at Joggins, since  we would not even know were it was located.  If they in fact saw it themselves, then the fact that they provided so few details may be an indication of their bias against the concept of catastrophic (or rapid) formation of coal.  This is also suggested, if not substantiated, by the fact that -- in similar fashion -- almost nothing  is known about the upright  25 foot tree  found in the Joggins strata as well.  Was this because its lowermost section was perhaps embedded in limestone? 27  We may never know for certain as Dawson provided virtually no details -- except to say that is was erect.

A similar 38 foot upright fossil tree was discovered in the coal measures of England.  And  in a 1966 paper on this subject, Rupke reported finding fossil trees as long as 25 meters.  

Marine Organisms: The fact that the marine tubeworm, Spirorbis, is found in this section strongly suggests that it was deposited under marine or brackish water influence.  With regard to the 1- 4 inch layer of  coal in (section 2) of the previous drawing, and the strata overlying it we are told that:

"The roof contains Naiadites carbonarius, Cythere, Spirorbis,  fish-scales, and coprolites.  The Coal is hard and laminated, and has on its surface leaves of Cordaites and vascular bundles of  ferns.  It is remarkable for containing scattered remains of  a number of  species  of  fishes belonging to the genera Ctenoptychius, Diplodus, Palaeoniscus, and Rhizodus. The underclay has rootlets of Stigmaria, and the bed below this has large roots of the same." 28 **

With regard to the roof strata above the lower (Main) coal seams we are told that it:

"... has afforded Sigillaria catenoides and other species, Alethopteris lonchitica, Cordaites borassifolia,  Lepidodendron elegans, Trigoncarpa, Naiadites, Spirorbis, Cythere,  fragments  of  insects. (?) The mineral Charcoal contains bast tissue, Scalariform, epidermal, and cellular tissues ... The roof is especially rich in Cordaites, sometimes with Spirorbis adherent." 29  **

We are also told that the strata immediately above the tree contains: "only drift vegetable fragments having Spirorbis attached... ," 30  therefore we can be certain that it was a drift deposit.

Missing Roots: Note the presence of roots in section 8 below the lower coal, however there are  none between the two seams.  And that if the presence of roots in the lower underclay is proof of forest growth, then what does their absence indicate?  Could it be that the upper coal never was a forest, but  rather  merely an organic drift deposit?  If so, then perhaps the lower coal is too?

Out of Order Roots: In ref. 28 above we find "rootlets of  Stigmaria" above a bed with "large roots of the same."  If these deposits were  in situ  then we would expect to find the larger roots above the  smaller rootlets. 

Additional Comments: The fact that the marine tubeworm Spirorbis (discussed in Part II) is found in this strata strongly suggests a marine influence.  The presence of leaves and insects and drifted material in the roof suggests that the roof strata cannot be an  in situ deposit but rather the result of catastrophic influences.  The fact that the roots of the tree (and some of the Calamites) appear to be truncated suggests that they were deposited while floating upright.  The fact that the coals are laminated is also suggests a sedimentary origin.  The lack of distinct soils and the presence of extremely thick layers also suggests a rapid depositional environment.  Together this evidence suggests that this whole section of strata is of catastrophic origin.

Another section that was thought to be  in situ  is depicted below and is of a 9 foot tree between shale (above) and coal (below), along with Stigmaria rootlets, Calamites, and the stem of an unknown plant.

9 foot tree passing through sandstone, along with Calamites buried while floating upright
Dawson, 1854, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. Lon., Vol. 10, p. 21; Also Acadian Geology, 1855 and 1868 Eds.

1. Underclay, with rootlets of Stigmaria, resting on gray shale, with two thin coaly seams.
2. Gray sandstone, with erect trees, Calamites, and other stems: 9 feet.
3. Coal, with erect tree on its surface: 6 inches.
4. Underclay, with Stigmaria rootlets.
     (a)  Calamites.                                          (c)  Stigmaria roots.
     (b)  Stem of plant undetermined.            (d)  Erect trunk, 9 feet high.

Dawson believed that:

"The  Stigmaria-underclay" (in  section 4) "shows the existence of  a Sigillaria forest, the soil of  which  collected sufficient vegetable matter to form 6 inches of  coal, which probably represents a peaty bog several  feet  in thickness." 31 **
                                                                                                      

In Dawson's opinion this strata was deposited as follows:

"On  this  peaty  soil  grew the trees  represented by the stump of ... charcoal mentioned above,  and which  were  probably coniferous.  This tree,  being about 1 foot  in diameter, must have required about fifty  years  for its growth ... It was then killed,  perhaps by the inundation of the bog. During (its) decay ... Sigillariae, d, grew... to the  diameter of  two  feet, when  they were  overwhelmed by sediment, which buried their roots to a depth of  about 18  inches.  At this level Calamites, a, and another Sigillaria began to grow, the former attaining a diameter of  4 inches, the latter a diameter of about a foot. ... These ... were in... turn imbedded in somewhat coarser sediment, but so gradually that ... trees with Stigmarian roots, c, grew at two higher levels before the accumulation of  mud and sand attained a depth of  9  feet, at which depth the original large Sigillariae, that had grown immediately over the coal,  were broken off, and their hollow trunks filled with  sand ..." 31 **

Note: Dawson did not include some of the trees described above in his drawing of this strata, such as the 1 foot diameter tree and the 4-inch diameter Sigillaria.

Comments:
Dawson claimed that the trees and plants in this strata were buried in their original positions of growth or  in situ.  Several aspects suggest otherwise, such as the following:

Lack of Distinct Soils: The most obvious is the lack of a distinct soil in section 2.  Instead there is a remarkable uniformity in the layering. 

Lack of Large Roots: The small singular rootlets of section 4 are of the same size and shape as the Stigmaria rootlets (c) in the upper part of section 2.  If the lower underclay did at one time support a 'Sigillaria forest,' it seems a bit odd that the only preserved evidence for this are tiny rootlets.  One would think that at least some of the larger roots (from the 2 foot diameter trees) would have extended beyond the bottom of the coal, yet they appear to be absent.

Note: From Logan's and Dawson's bed by bed review of the Joggins strata, there appear to be a lot fewer beds containing large roots than those with "rootlets", and even fewer beds that have large roots with attached rootlets. 32  
 
Missing Roots:  It is also worth noting what Dawson does not tell us.  For example, he does not tell us whether these "
distinctly marked"   Stigmaria roots from the 1 foot diameter tree (not depicted) had rootlets attached.  This is almost certainly because they didn't, which is why he used the term "distinct" to describe how they were "marked" (i.e. Stigmaria roots get their name from the "distinct" scar marks left behind by their "missing" rootlets).  Dawson also doesn't say anything about the three upright Calamite stems "a"   that are missing their lower portions.

Why were the stems preserved but not the roots?  More importantly, how were these stems preserved in upright position with no roots to hold them up?  This suggests that these stems were buried while floating upright.  The only other possibility is that their roots fell out of the cliff-face.  However, if this were the case, Lyell and Dawson should have said so.  The fact that they didn't is an indication that they were actually missing.  Such instances are clearly depicted in the writings of Brown and are discussed later; however, unlike Dawson and Lyell, Brown readily admits that this was the case.

Missing Trees:  In the above (second) paragraph describing this strata Dawson mentions "trees with Stigmaria roots, "c" that grew "at two higher levels"  before being buried in mud and sand.  With regard to these trees, all that was left was their small root-base.  This seems odd, considering the fact that their bases are just as big, if not bigger than the "a" stem to the right. 


Lack of Erosion: 
Except for the 6 inch layer of coal, the strata is repetitive and displays a high degree of  lateral continuity.  The fact that there is no erosion between the layers is suggestive of cyclic continuous deposition.

Uniformity of Direction: All except one of the stems are sloping toward the left; this suggests that a current was present during deposition.

Laminated Underclay  Although it is unclear in the drawing above, the detailed view clearly shows that the underclay in section 4 is laminated or layered.  This suggests it was probably not a soil, but rather simply a layered sedimentary deposit with embedded rootlets.  For if this were a soil then bioturbation should have destroyed the layering.  Dawson, himself, concurred with such reasoning when he stated that:

"Beds of clay  containing roots of  plants in situ, and destitute  or nearly destitute of lamination, are designated in the Section 'Underclays.' As these are fossil soils they  will be... considered in connection with the vegetable matter which accumulated upon them." 33 **

Fragile Fossils: Dawson further tells us that: "the erect trees contain reptilian remains... and remains of insects." 34  We are also told that one of  these trees was a sandstone cast which: "contained a large quantity of ... fragments of ... carbonized wood, leaves of Naeggerathia or Poacites."  35

Different Sediments:  Another obstacle to the in situ interpretation of this section is the fact that these trees were filled-in with sandstone (see in-text quote of ref. 31 on previous page).  How were they filled up with sandstone when the bed immediately above them (bed #1) consists of gray shale and (above this an) underclay?

Additional Comments:  The fact that the underclay (with rootlets) in section 4 is laminated suggests that it may not have been a soil, but rather simply a deposit with floating upright rootlets -- or with rootlets that were "dangling" down from the plant mass above from which the coal was derived.  The fact that fragile leaves were preserved along with upright stems, with no roots to hold them in place, suggests they were buried while floating upright.  The fact that the trees were filled with different sediments than those which were immediately above (or around) their snapped off trunks is also suggestive of transport.  Again the evidence suggests that the upright plants, trees, and rootlets in the above section are (probably) not  in situ, but the result of drifted material that was washed in.

Horizontal Shear
Almost all of the roots and stems to the right of the tree above have been sheared off horizontally.  The 9-foot tree has also suffered the same fate.  This is quite common with fossil roots and trees.  If this were the result of decay, then the contact along the top (of such trees) should be uneven (or jagged) rather than flat.  Rupke  36 and Hörbiger 37 suggested that this might be the result of the upper (now missing) portions being frozen and subsequently "snapped" off by an incoming tidal wave.  Another possibility is that they were simply snapped off  by moving debris during a flood.  Such a scenario is possible when considering that these trees (and their roots) were in the fragile state of being hollow (or semi-hollow), yet partially filled with sediments.  This is illustrated in the diagrams that follow. 

In  the first set of diagrams the assumption is made that these Lycopod trees were part of large "Floating Forests" (as proposed by Scheven), 38 and that after being torn from their forest-mats they sank and began filling up with sediments.  However, prior to becoming heavy-laden with sediments, they would be carried along by strong currents before coming to their final resting place.  The second set simply shows how such hollow trees may have been snapped off, and subsequently filled with sediments that are different from those which surround them.

1) The tree to the far left is
     dislodged from its place of
     growth as part of a "Floating
     Forest" by Flood-waters, 
     and /or Hurricane winds.
2)  Ends of roots break off--
     allowing water to enter into
     the trunk.  The tree sinks and
     is subsequently punctured 
     by floating and rolling debris. 
    Mud-laden water enters 
    into the trunk and begins 
    filling its roots with fine 
    sediment as it  rests on the 
    continuously rising bottom.
 3, 4) Before becoming fixed
       in  its final resting place, 
       the tree  is lifted from the 
       bottom and  dragged 
       along by strong currents. 
 
5) Eventually the current
     slows down, and/or the 
     tree becomes so heavy-
     laden with sediments
     that it remains fixed in its 
     final resting place. 

6) Before it is completely
     buried, the water level 
     drops and it is struck by a 
     floating tree or log- mat -- 
     snapping off its upper 
     portion and leaving behind 
     a stump that contains 
     different sediments
     from those surrounding it.


 1)  Upright tree rests un-    
       comfortably on bottom 
       (Far Left).

 2)  Base of  (hollow) tree 
       is buried by sediments.

 3) Log  (or log-mat) strikes 
     tree and breaks off upper 
     portion.  Base remains in 
     place.

 4) Hollow  trunk  is  filled
     with  sediments  (from 
     above) that are different
     from those surrounding  it.

River Deposits ?
It has been reported that the upright trees at Joggins are the result of river deposits. 39, 40   
For example,
MacRae
40 states that:

"...there are upright giant lycopod  trees up to a few metres tall preserved mainly in river-deposited sandstones. These trees have extensive root systems with rootlets that penetrate into the underlying  sediment ... Dawson ... rejected anything but an in situ formation for these fossils, and  his interpretation is closely similar to current interpretations of sediments deposited on river floodplains..."

Consider also the following comment by Ferguson:

"Closer examination of the tilted  layers of  sandstone reveals they are not as regular as they first seemed, but every so  often have very obvious depressions in their under sides.  These are ancient river channels which cut into the... accumulating flood plane deposits..." 41 **

First off, it is quite possible that Dawson was wrong.  Also,  while there are  channel  sandstone deposits at Joggins, the assertion that these are "ancient river channels," is highly  questionable.  It seems more likely that they may simply be "runoff channels" where the water "ran off" the freshly deposited strata and back into the ocean as the tides were receding.  This is discussed in more detail in the next section. 

The actual evidence for the river/flood plain scenario is summed up by Ferguson as follows:

"Many animals lived and swam in Carboniferous seas, but the rocks at Joggins were  formed ... as the result of river action, or in  freshwater lakes  that  developed from flooding rivers." 42 **

This is because "The fossils that are found in these rocks are from land-dwelling or freshwater creatures." 42  **

Bell's assessment was similar: i.e. "... no truly marine or even estuarine  fauna occurs in the Coal Measures of the Joggins area." 43  **

 
Problems with the Lacustrine / River Deposit Scenario

Channel Sandstone Deposits:
According to Helder:

"the  channel sandstones are relatively uncommon at the lower levels near Joggins where so many fossilized trees are found." 44  **

Duff and Walton also studied a 500 m section of Logan's Division 4 Coals at Joggins and made the following remarks with regard to the channel deposits :

"There is little  doubt  that the sheet  sands are genetically connected  with the channel sands. Only rarely ... is a lens or 'reef'  of  channel sand developed without affecting the thickness and / or the number of  adjacent sheets.  Commonly the multi-leaf sheet sands are thicker when ...  close to a channel  sand."  45 **

And: "The connection between channel and sheet sands is  further reinforced by the observation that: A)  there tends to be more leaves in the sandstones in  the vicinity of the channel and B) in at least one sandstone ... the individual leaves are thicker near the channel." 45  **

They also state that: "The size of  the channels  in cross-section ... is  usually  small and  there are a number of  examples of sheet sands passing through erosional  contacts into channels."  For example: "... in one layer the parallel laminae appear to pass laterally into large-scale cross lamination." 45 **

And that: "We have not seen in any of  the channels the simple upward change in  the size of trough cross-bedded units accompanied by  diminution  of  grain size described from other  fluvial  successions..." 45 **

Extensive, Parallel strata:  The overwhelming majority of deposits at Joggins were laid down in sheets. This is evident in the high degree of lateral continuity of the layers  in virtually every  drawing of  this  strata.

Regarding the Joggins strata Archer, et al. remark that the "Sheet sandstones ... have a high degree of lateral continuity," and that the limestones are "strikingly linear." 46 Calder gives figures of  between 4-9 km wide 47 for the Cumberland area strata.  And Skilliter 48 reports that the Forty Brine coal seam and associated strata have been traced "40 km inland in mine workings  and drill core deposits."   Several hundred kilometers to the north lies the Sydney Basin, which is part of the Maritime Basin.  This area is home to  the Backpit  seam which, according to White, Gibling, and Kalkreuth, can be traced laterally "from northwest to southeast, for more than 45 km..." 49 

Marine Influences: Several lines of evidence (not widely known to the public) are also indicative of marine influences in the Joggins area strata.  This is in the form of pyritous  beds,  coals with  high sulfur content, marine tubeworms, and other fossils.  Each of these will be discussed in greater detail in  the  following sections (and in Part II) of this paper. 

Additional Comments: Such revelations raise serious doubts about the notion that these were ancient  river channels. The fact that some of the sheet laminae pass laterally through "erosional" contacts is cause to doubt whether such channels are erosion contacts at all.  The fact that they are genetically connected with the sheet sands implies, or suggests, that they were formed  at the same time.  The fact that many sheets were deposited over such wide areas also suggests that this strata was not the result  of  river deposits, but evidence of major  incursions by the sea.

Below is another section of strata from the Joggins area that was thought to be in situ.


Dawson : 1854, Quart. J. Geol. Soc. Lon., vol. 10, p. 29 and Acadian Geology, 1855 p. 175; 1868, p 200.

1. Shale.               
2. Shaly coal, 1 foot.           
3. Underclay with rootlets, 1foot 2 inches.
4. Gray sandstone passing downwards into shale, 3 feet.  Erect tree with Stigmaria roots (e) on the coal.
5. Coal, 1 inch.                    
6. Underclay with roots, 10 inches.
7. Gray sandstone, 1 foot 5 inches.  Stigmaria rootlets continued from bed above; erect Calamites.
8. Gray shale, with pyrites.  Flattened plants.

Additional Information from Dawson's bed by bed description 50 is as follows:

*Sandstone, gray.  Rootlets of Stigmaria. ................................2  ft.   3 in.
  Shale, gray. An erect tree rooted in bed below. ...................  20 ft.   0 in.
*Bituminous limestone.  Rootlets of Stigmaria, Modiola,
  Cypris. ..................................................................................0 ft.   2 in.
  Shale, carbonaceous, with ironstone balls.  Poacites, &c. ........0 ft.   9 in.
*Underclay. Rootlets of Stigmaria.  ..........................................0 ft.  10 in.  (1)
  Coal, Shaly ............................................................................1 ft.    0 in.  (2)
*Underclay.  Indistinct Rootlets.................................................1 ft.    2 in.  (3)
*Sandstone, gray argillaceous, passing downward into shale
  and bituminous shale.  An erect tree; Stigmaria roots ................3 ft    0 in.  (4)
  Coal .......................................................................................0 ft    1 in.  (5)
*Underclay.  Rootlets ...............................................................0 ft.  10 in.  (6)
  Sandstone, gray.  Erect Calamites and Stigmaria rootlets
  descending from bed above. ....................................................1 ft.   5 in.  (7)
  Shale, gray, pyritous.  Numerous flattened plants.......................4 ft.   6 in.  (8)
  Coal, very pyritous. .................................................................0 ft.   8 in.

* Asterisks denote beds that possessed Roots or Rootlets.
( ) Numbers in brackets denote beds from figure above. 

We are also told that:

"Group XXVII  is a... series of underclays and  their accompaniments, including  eleven terrestrial soil surfaces,  five thin coals, erect  plants at  four levels, and two bituminous limestones.  It much resembles some of the groups at the commencement of the section, and like some of  these is  very pyritous, marking the action of  sea-water  to a greater degree than in those  central parts of  the measures..." 51 (p. 28) **

Regarding the tree in the figure above we are told that :

"The roots of this tree are casts in sandstone,  probably  from the surface of  the sand surrounding its upper part, but the stump itself is filled with shaly clay from the underclay above." 51  (pp. 28-29) **

Comments:  
Dawson believed that the stump, the stems, and all of the roots in the section above were
in situ however, again this is questionable for the following reasons:

Pyritous Beds: From the quotes above we note that this section contains  beds  that are "very pyritous" and that this is an indication that "sea-water" has had  access  to  them.  This  suggests  that  we are  not dealing with a local freshwater river flood but one that involves the ocean.

Sediments in Tree different than those around it: From the above quote we note that  the roots of this tree are casts of sandstone, while the  "Additional Information"  (below the drawing) tell us  that  the sediments around its base  are shale.  Also, the quote above tells us that  the  stump is  "filled with  shaly clay," yet the comments associated with section 4 tell  us  that  the  sediments  around  it  are:  "Gray  sandstone  passing downwards  into  shale."  In other words, the roots of this tree were filled with  sandstone,  but the tree itself with shaly clay.  Dawson wants us to believe that the sand around the top of the tree  poured over its top and filled up what was left of its roots.  This is possible; however, this also means that shale around its base did not enter into the tree.  Dawson says that the shaly clay inside the tree came from the "underclay" above it.  This is also possible, however, it would mean that the  underclay  in  section 3  is actually  a  shaly underclay.  Again (at first glance) this  appears possible. 

The only problem with such reasoning is that it doesn't account for the  extremely  sharp  contact  above  the tree.  Such a contact is not the result of (slow) decay, but rather an indication that the tree was  snapped  off prior to the deposition of section 3.  The fact that the upper contact is so sharp is also an  indication  that  the tree was already hollow.  This leaves only two possibilities: Either the tree was filled with 3 feet of  shaly clay before it was snapped off, or  it  was filled  up  afterwards.  If  it  was  filled up  afterwards  then  the  strata immediately above the tree should be bent downwards as a result of  pouring  into and  filling  up the hollow tree.  But this is not what we observe in Dawson's drawing.  Therefore it  appears that the sediments inside the tree did not come from the underclay in  section 3, and  suggests  that this tree was transported while in a partially filled-up state.

Individual Rootlets:  If the above plant remains are in growth position, then why are the  individual rootlets separated from the larger (Stigmaria) roots, plants, or trees to which they were once attached? 

Missing Roots: Even more baffling are the Calamite stems in section 7.  The fact that their roots are missing, yet they are erect suggests that they were also buried while floating upright.  The only other possibilities are: 1) that the roots were not preserved, or  2) that they fell  out of  the  cliff.  The first  scenario seems  highly unlikely considering that many other rootlets were preserved in this  section..  The  second scenario requires that either Dawson failed to notice this, or that he failed to say so: both of which seem unlikely considering his attention to detail and his eagerness to prove that  such  deposits were the result of ancient  forests  inundated by multiple floods.

The roots of the stump also appear to be missing--even though  the coal is only one inch thick.  Some will say that the roots of this tree are hidden in coal.  While this  scenario  is  "possible,"  the fact  that  none of  them penetrated into the ancient "soil" underclay also suggests that this  tree stump is not  in situ, but  rather has been transported. 

Some will say that the rootlets (from the tree) are penetrating into the "underclay";  however,  if  this  were  the case then they should be radiating out at various angles from  their main  stems.  Instead  they  are  all  pointing down as if (they were) broken off and subsequently reburied while floating upright,  while  (at  the  same time) the main root-stems are nowhere to be found. 

Notice also the dots at the bottom left side of the stump; these are scar marks left by rootlets that were at  one time attached.  The fact that these (rootlets) were not preserved suggests two possibilities: 1) that this soil  was not conducive to the preservation of tree roots; or 2) that this tree  was  uprooted.  The  fact  that  similar scar marks and roots are also missing from the right side of the tree, and that many  individual  rootlets  were  found intact within this strata suggests that scenario #2 is more probable.

Such roots with pit marks are referred to as  Stigmaria  and  are  quite  common  at  Joggins.  Regarding  these Dawson states:

"The  underclays in question are  accordingly penetrated by innumerable long rootlets now in a coaly state, but retaining  enough of their form to enable us to recognize them as belonging to a peculiar root, the  Stigmaria, of very  frequent occurrence in the coal  measures,  and ... now known to  have belonged to  a  singular tree,  the Sigillaria, found in the same deposits ... The Stigmaria has derived its name from the regularly arranged pits or spots left by its rootlets, which proceeded from it on all sides." 52  **

Shale "Underclay" Above Coal: Dawson refers to section 1 in the Drawing  above as a "Shale";  however, in his bed by bed review (in the same publication) he calls it an "Underclay."  This bed (1) is 10 inches thick and is located above the (1 foot) Coal of Section 2.  In fact, beds designated as "underclays" are usually not composed of clay, but rather shale or sandstone; however, in some cases they are clay or  limestone.  See Lesquereux's in-text quote (ref. 125 of Part II). 

Fragile Fossils:  Above  the 10  inch  Shale / Underclay  is  a  9  inch  carbonaceous  Shale  which  contains ironstone balls and Poacites -- long striated leaves that look similar to  cornstalk  leaves,  now  referred  to  as Cordaites.  The fact that leaves were preserved in this shale suggests that it  was  deposited  rapidly.  The  fact that Dawson refers to the 'Underclay'  below it also as shale suggests that these two shales were one  in  the same with rootlets in the lower portion and leaves in the upper.

An Erect Tree "Rooted" in Limestone: Dawson's bed by bed review also reveals  that  there is  a  2-inch Bituminous limestone immediately above the shales just discussed.  Above this is a 20 foot thick gray shale with "An erect tree rooted in bed below."   This is also mentioned in his earlier publication where, with regard  to these beds, Dawson tells us that: 

"It will be observed  that one of  the bituminous limestones  in this group has been converted  into a Stigmaria-underclay and supports an erect  tree."  53

The above details are significant for several reasons.  First because limestone usually forms in the ocean and is not normally thought of as an adequate soil for root growth.  Second because of  what  Dawson  does not  say: i.e.  He does not say that this tree had attached roots, but  rather  that  it  was  rooted in  limestone.  However,  from the quote above, it appears that this tree was merely supported by  this  bed.  This  is  significant  because we  are told that this bed had rootlets of Stigmaria in it.  Therefore, it appears that we have a bed  of  limestone capable of preserving rootlets, yet in it is a tree without roots.  

Additional Comments: The underclay in the Figure above was capable of preserving roots, but the fact that it was so selective in doing so suggests that something is amiss with the  in situ  interpretation  for this  section of strata as well.  Once again we have a section of strata from the Joggins area that  has upright  trees,  plants, and roots; and once again it seems unlikely  that  they  are  in situ,  but  rather  probable  that  they  represent uprooted and transported material deposited by floodwaters.



The Sydney Area:
The problem of upright trees (and plants) with their roots missing was also encountered by Brown.54  Consider the drawings below.  Figure 6 is located about 29 feet above the Indian Cove Seam, or approximately 370 feet below the Main Coal Seam near Sydney. 

Calamites buried while floating Upright, Two tree stumps w/o roots
After Brown, 1849, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. Lon., Vol. 6,  p. 129. 

With regard to this bed Brown states that:

"About  eight  feet higher in the section,  several erect Calamites,  from  4 to 8  feet in length and 3 to 5  inches  in diameter occur in the micaceous sandstone No. 88.  They do not present any traces of roots" 54 **

With regard to Fig. 8 below Brown states that:

"A long interval now follows without any erect trees, the  next in order being Calamites  without roots in the sandstone No. 299, which is  735  feet above the Main Coal No. 188."  55  **

More Calamites buried upright; no traces of roots.  Partially upright tree with portion bent over buried in various different strata
After Brown, 1849, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. Lon., Vol. 6,  p. 129.

Comments
Both of the above drawings clearly display upright plants and trees with their roots missing.  With regard to the Calamites Mr. Brown plainly tells says that this is the case; however, it appears that this is the case with the trees as well.  In both figures there is virtually no place where their roots might be concealed (such as in a coal seam).  This suggests that they too are missing--probably as a result of being uprooted.

Notice also the strange-looking tree above section 302 in Fig. 8 above.  How did it come to be bent over like that?  Some may say that it simply grew this way; however such an explanation doesn't explain why the tree left behind no traces of roots (or even rootlets) in section 302.  A more likely scenario is that it was transported here by floodwaters, and that it already possessed several feet of sediments when it became imbedded in section 303.  As described earlier, this tree was probably struck by floating debris, such as a log-mat,  when the surrounding sediments were at (the top of) section 303.  However, since the tree itself most likely (?) contained sediments that extended above this, it didn't snap off completely, but rather was broken it two places.  The lowermost break caused the upper (sediment-filled) portion to fall over; however, because the uppermost portion was not yet filled with sediment, and was (in this scenario) only partially broken, it floated back to an upright position-- where it was again enveloped by sediment to the middle of section 306.  At this point it was again struck by floating debris, and its uppermost portion was snapped off.

Lets look at another stump; however, this one had both Stigmaria roots and rootlets attached.  The stump below is from the roof  of the Sydney Main Coal Seam.  Its roots have the distinctive scar marks left by the rootlets that have broken off; however, some of the rootlets remained intact.   


"Fig. 1. Section showing the position of the tree above the coal seam, with the 
... lengths of two of the principal roots so far as they could be distinctly traced."


After Brown, 1847, Quart. J. Geol. Soc. Lon., Vol. 4, p. 47.

 

 

 

Brown believed that this tree was in situ even though he found "no visible traces of rootlets in the coal," 56 nor did he find any on the underside of the roots--even  though the areolae were  "much larger and more distinct upon the under than the upper sides of the roots." 56  Brown also tells us that one of the roots touched the coal at about five feet from the trunk.  This means that the area immediately under the trunk was above the coal -- even though Brown does not indicate in either of these drawings exactly where the coal begins,  Note that the areolae (i.e. the pit marks left by broken off rootlets) are present all the way up to the trunk.

Different view of  this stump
After Brown, 1847, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. London, Vol. 4, p. 47.

Comments 
In spite of not finding any rootlets on the under side of this tree Brown nevertheless proclaimed that :

"...there can be no doubt that (its roots) penetrated deeply  into  the underlying mass of vegetable matter from which the tree derived its chief nutriment..." 56

In other words, he believed that is was buried in its original growth position.

Note Brown's use of the word "deeply" with regard to his opinion of how the roots (from the above tree) are said to have penetrated into this 6 foot thick seam of coal.  This is significant because when other large trees are resting on top of thin seams of coal, their associated (and usually missing) "roots" almost never seem to penetrate very deep -- if indeed they are discernable at all.

We also note that the attached rootlets are all pointing up.  The ones on the under side were all missing.  This was either because: 1) they all fell out when the coal below the tree was removed; 2) because they were all destroyed when the stump fell to the ground (after the props were taken out); or 3) because this tree was uprooted  prior to deposition in this strata.  According to Brown, there was "no doubt"  that it was in situ; however, again there is reason to question such a conclusion. 

For example, note that the majority of the roots were above the coal.  In this regard Mr. Brown traced two of the roots and found that they appeared to enter the seam at a distance of about 30 inches from the trunk.  This is significant for several reasons.  First because it means that not all of the rock strata beneath the tree had been removed.  Had this been the case then Mr. Brown would not have been able to determine this distance.  It also means that Mr. Brown (when tracing these roots to their termination points) should have seen rootlets on the underside of these  roots.  The fact that he didn't suggests that this tree was not  in situ.

Mr. Brown also points out that "the roots are filled with dark bluish shale arranged in nearly horizontal layers..." 56  Commenting on this he said they "must have been perfectly hollow before the deposition of mud within began." 56 In addition, he found "fern-leaves... interposed between the layers,"  and noted that these "could only have obtained access thereto by settling down through the trunk above." 56 Brown also made a cross-sectional drawing of one of these roots that is depicted below. 

Cross section of roots that are filled with laminated shale
After Brown, Richard, 1847, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. Lon., Vol. 4, p. 49; Fig 7.

Additional Comments: Once again we have an upright tree above a coal seam that may, or  may  not  be  in growth position.  The fact that almost all of the roots were above the coal and that  all  of  the  rootlets  on  the underside of the main roots were missing suggests that they were likely broken off -- the result of a tree that was uprooted prior to being deposited in this section. 




Extensive Roots Systems  Or  Root Systems Extensively Missing?
MacRae
  57  has asserted that the fossil lycopod trees at Joggins have  "extensive root systems" -- thus giving the impression that most of them do.  Gibling says that "MANY" upright trees at Joggins have attached roots, while Ferguson says the roots only appear to be missing.  

For example, Gibling has said that:

"In many cases, only parts of upright trees are seen (other parts  have fallen out or the basal part is not  exposed, or is covered  with  fallen debris), so  one can't tell.  However, I can say that MANY that I have  seen have  well developed root systems associated with them." 58  **

Gibling also said that:

"It  would not be an easy matter to find roots from  an individual tree actually penetrating down into the coal:  much of  the coal could  include root material now compacted down.  Where  trees  are sitting atop a coal, one generally assumes  that they were originally growing  on the peatland surface.  However, it is easy to see roots  penetrating down from many trees  where the upright trees are resting on a  surface of sandstone or shale." 58 **

Ferguson addressed the missing root problem by saying that it applies to the  "longer tree stumps,"  and that:

"If  you examine the bases of  such stumps closely, you should see the  position of the crushed roots and the rootlets that radiate out  from them ... Sometimes you can even trace  extensive root systems for many  metres  from their bases...  In some cases the sediment- filled root systems spread out from  the base of  the trunks over a  radius of  5 metres or more." 59  **

Such assurances may satisfy some;  however, there are significant reasons to question whether anything close to a  majority of upright fossil trees in the Joggins strata possess either (attached) roots that are not truncated, or roots with rootlets attached.  For example, after describing numerous beds in Logan's Division 4 Coals at Joggins--including at least 21 different levels with erect trees and tree stumps, 60 Dawson makes the following statement:

"This is the first instance we have here yet met with of  the distinct connexion of  an erect ribbed  stem with its Stigmaria  roots." 61 **

In other words, only about 1 out of  50 upright trees in the Joggins strata  has both roots and attached rootlets.  This number was derived by counting the upright trees that Dawson recorded in each of these 21 different "levels."

The missing root problem was addressed by Dawson, himself, in 1853 with the following statement:

"It has been asked, in reference to the Joggins  section,* how it happens that so many erect trunks show no roots, especially since the great number of  fossil soils would lead us to anticipate that the former were less likely to be preserved than the latter." 62 **     
* President's Address, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc., vol. ii.

Dawson's explanation was that the underclays are:

"usually  more perishable than the sandstones  and arenaceous  shales which contain the erect trunks" and that "The roots ... have often been compressed or converted into coal... There are cases, however, in  which the Stigmaria roots  are  preserved in a horizontal  position, and with scarcely any  flattening." 62

This answer has serious problems.  For example, it does nothing to explain why many of  the  underclays have individual rootlets, yet relatively few larger roots.  It also doesn't explain  why many of  the larger  Stigmaria roots are found with pit-marks all over them -- indicating that they once had rootlets.  Such problems are almost always ignored or minimized with statements to the effect that the  roots were "compressed" or "converted into coal", or simply were not preserved.  Such assertions are not without problems.

For example, if the base of a tree is juxtaposed to a coal seam, and this seam is several inches thick, then Dawson's answer has some validity.  For in such cases it is quite possible that its attached  roots (if  there were any) would be "hidden"  in the seam.  This  is  especially true  in  instances where  the coal  is  not laminated, but rather homogeneous.  Even then, it only applies to cases where a tree is sitting directly on  top of a coal seam. 

In such cases where the base of the tree is in sandstone, shale, or clay, the above scenario does not apply.  For here we should see evidence of both roots and rootlets attached to trees that  are upright.  It is  the author's contention that such cases are the exception and not the rule, and that  when  no traces of roots  are visible it is because  there were none present to preserve.  Such a  view (though based on  sound principles) is difficult for many to accept due to philosophical reasons (i.e. evolutionary bias), for it  would mean that perhaps none of the upright fossil trees in the Nova Scotia strata (if not the  whole world)  were buried in situ: thus giving credibility to the Genesis account  of Noah and his Ark and a worldwide Flood 

Consider also what Lyell and Bell had to say about the missing root  problem  in  the Joggins strata. With regard to the shales above the coals Lyell said that:

"It was also observed that,  while in the overlying  shales,  or 'roof' of the coal,  ferns and trunks of  trees abound  without  any  Stigmariae and are flattened and compressed, those singular plants of the underclay most commonly retain their natural forms, unflattened and branching freely, and sending out their slender rootlets, formerly thought to be leaves, through the mud in all directions." 63  

Here Lyell tries to make the case that  the mud-laden underclays  were soils; however, in  so  doing, he admits  that the overlying strata (above the coals) abound in  drift-plants and trees  that are missing their roots. It is also observed that he only uses the term "rootlets" when describing the underclays.  This is noteworthy because it also agrees with Dawson's overall assessment that such trees are only rarely found with both Stigmaria rootlets (or "appendages") attached.  This is  evident by  the fact that  neither Dawson or Lyell could find even one such specimen from the Joggins area strata that they  deemed  worthy  to  draw, but -- for such a specimen -- resorted to the Sydney strata and  the writings of Brown. 64   This tree is discussed in  Part II of  this paper.  See also the Underclays of Joggins.  

Walter  A. Bell also noticed that the majority of upright fossil trees at Joggins  do not possess attached roots.  Consider his remarks  below.

"...Thirty-five Sigillarian upright trees were observed in the Coal Measures of the Joggins section. Of those examined, three contained the remains of land reptiles or of land snails, while three others were observed with Stigmarian roots still attached. The general absence of roots may be explained by the fact that most of the trees have their bases directly over a thin underlying coaly or carbonaceous seam, indicating a probable decay of the roots and reduction into coaly matter. All of the erect  Sigillaria had their basal terminations in shales which have little or no drift material other than fragments of leaves and Stigmarian rootlets." 65 **

This brings up an interesting question:  If the above shales were able to preserve fragments of leaves and rootlets, then why were they unable to preserve the larger Stigmarian roots to which rootlets should be attached?  

Bell asserts that most of the bases of upright trees directly overlie a "thin coaly or  carbonaceous  seam." Again, the proposition that all evidence of roots would  vanish  simply  because a  thin seam  (or film)  of carbonaceous matter is below the tree seems unlikely in light of the fact that most large trees possess large roots that grow both out from the tree and (down) into the "soil."  This is evident  from the subsequent drawing (Fig. 9) and from Browns depiction of  (Fig 2) -- a tree with both roots and  rootlets  (See p. 2 of  Part II).  Note also that Bell uses of the word  "seam"  to describe  the (coaly  or  carbonaceous) material below the base of these trees.  However, in the next sentence, he says that the bases of the  Sigillaria  were (all) terminated in shales. 

So, is it coal, or shale? 
Since other writers have commented on this, lets consider what they had to say as well.  For example, 
Duff and Walton quote Lyell as follows:

"'... most  of  the  trees terminated downwards in seams of coal."' And that: Some  few were ... based in clay and shale;  none of them, except Calamites were in sandstone." 66 **

Duff and Walton, themselves, observed that: "...each specimen ... was rooted  in mudstone," 66  while Calder said that: Virtually all Lepidodendrid trees... are rooted in  coal beds, however thin." 67 

However, Coffin said that the upright: "Petrified stumps starting from a coal surface almost never send roots  into the coal, but spread them out onto, or just above the coal," 68 and that "Only a small number  of  vertical trees arise from coal.  The majority originate in shale or sandstone, which exhibit no change in texture or organic content." 68 **

Therefore  there appears  to be a  discrepancy.   Lyell says that  "most"  of  the upright trees are terminated in coal.  Calder says that the "Lepidodendrid" trees are always rooted in coal, while Bell said that "most" Sigillaria trees had their bases  "directly over a thin coaly or carbonaceous  seam,"  yet in the next sentence  that: "all  of  the erect Sigillaria had their basal  terminations in shales."  Duff and Walton weighed in on this as well and said that all  of the upright  trees they examined were "rooted  in mudstone;"  however, Coffin said that "only a small number of vertical trees arise from coal," and those that do "almost never send their roots into the coal."

So which of these assessments, if any, is more accurate?   One possible solution  is to examine one of  Mr. Brown's drawings of the Sydney strata -- strata that has been said to be very similar to that  at  Joggins.  From this drawing it appears that most of the upright trees near Sydney have their bases  in shale. 

  

 

 

 



After Brown, 1849, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. Lon., Vol. 6, p. 131.

Comments:
Of the 19 trees in the drawing above, only three are resting upon a seam of  coal,  the  other 16  have  their bases either in shale or (in one case) resting upon clay.  

* Note also the two trees on the far right;  although they possess both roots  and  rootlets,  they appear  to terminate above the coal. 

From the available data, it appears to this writer that many (if  not  most) of  the upright trees in  both the Joggins and Sydney strata do not terminate in coal but rather in shale or  mudstone.  Even if  a majority of upright  trees in the Nova Scotia strata do terminate in coal -- something that  (at  east from the  published literature)  appears doubtful, to assert that a thin seam of coal (almost always) caused the underlying roots to vanish  without a  trace seems questionable at best.  However, there are other reasons  to question  such  a scenario.  This will become more evident when we discuss trees that traverse coal seams.  At lease one such tree from the Sydney  strata  had  (truncated)   roots  that  did  cross a seam  of  "coal  mixed  with  shale"; however, its roots did not appear to be offset.

Such a finding suggests that this seam never was a layer of peat, for  if  it  was then  the  root-portion below the coal should be offset from that  above it.  The  author has  also found instances of  upright  tree stumps that were completely enclosed  within  and /or  protruding through  coal  seams  several  feet  thick.  

The fact that well preserved leaves and other fragile fossils are found  in many  of  the coals  and their shale roofs is suggestive of rapid burial.  The fact that the "soil" beneath them was able to preserve multitudes of (individual) rootlets suggests that the larger basal roots are missing because the trees were uprooted  prior  to deposition in  the strata.

In this regard, Dawson, himself, said something of great significance about the Joggins "soil's" ability to preserve roots:

We may also observe that,  admitting the Stigmaria  to be roots of  trees,  there are  five distinct forest soils without any remains of trees, except their roots; and we shall find that throughout the (Carboniferous) section that the forest soils are much more frequently preserved than the forests themselves. 69 **

Such an account is a glaring contradiction to his earlier statement  (ref. 62)  that  the "former" (trees) are less likely to be preserved than the "latter" (roots) -- especially when considering  that  so  many  of these upright trees do not show any traces of roots.

Additional Comments:  While some of the fossil trees at  Joggins undoubtedly possess  extended roots, it appears that the great majority do not. Additionally, in the opinion of this writer it seems likely that when a tree in this strata is found  to  possess  roots:  upon  further  investigation  it  will,  more  often than not, be found  to  have its  root-terminations truncated, and/or to be missing many of  its rootlets.  Therefore, the conclusion that these trees are in their original positions of growth seems doubtful.

Note also that Dr. E. Weiss came to a similar conclusion with regard to upright Sigillaria trees found in the coal strata of Germany.  Specifically he noted that: 

"Stammhöhe oft bedeutend; Exemplare mit Wurzeln sind selten, letztere meist abgebrochen.  Blätter lineal mit breitem Mittelnerv."  
Quoted from: Aus der Flora der Steinkohlenformation, 1882, p. 4.

Which means: "Trunk heights are often considerable; examples with roots are rare, and often broken off.  Leaves are linear with broad middle veins."  Emphasis Added

Therefore we can conclude that such is not only the case in coal formation strata of Nova Scotia but also other coal formations as well: perhaps throughout  the whole earth.

Before moving on, lets examine two more such trees with attached roots which were also said  to be in situ. They are from the roof of the Main Coal seam at Sydney, Nova Scotia. 

Large stump in laminated shale--immediately above Main Sydney coal seam

After Brown, 1849, Quarterly Jour. Geol. Soc. London, Vol. 5, p. 357.

Large tree stump with truncated roots

After Brown, 1849, Quarterly Jour. Geol. Soc. London, Vol. 5, p. 359.

With Regard to Fig 6  Brown informs us that there are no leaves in the lowermost portion of the shale roof. 70

Comments
From this we note that there were large quantities  of  prostrate stems and  leaves in  layers of  shale (at an unknown distance) above the coal.  We are also told that these plant fragments were held in suspension in water as they were buried.  Brown claims this is evidence that such  fragments  were not drifted  from a distance, but rather fell from  trees  that  grew  upon  this  spot.  How  such  a  conclusion was arrived   at is uncertain.  He could have taken the opposite view: I. E.  Had these trees grew upon this spot then we  should see leaves and stems in the lowermost part as well, but since we don't, then  they  must  have  been  rifted  in from a distance.  The fact that such fragments were entombed at short intervals while held  in suspension  also suggests that they were not all prostrate, and indicates that their entombment was quite rapid.

With Regard to the shale roof we are told that:

"Although the main coal is generally  overlaid by  shale,  yet occasionally the shale thins  out, and the thick  sandstone, which is the next stratum... forms the roof  of  the coal." 70 **

We are also told that:

 "...as no upright trees are found in the  sandstone  roof,  it  may be  reasonably  inferred  that plants would not vegetate  upon the bog itself, a layer of  soft mud being necessary... for germinating the seeds; but when a  plant  had  once  taken root in this mud, its rootlets penetrated  downwards into  the peat, and furnished an abundant supply of nutriment ... from the ... decaying vegetable matter beneath." 70 **
Mud-germination Hypothesis: Here we are told that occasionally the coal is directly overlain by sandstone rather than coal and that no upright plants were found in such sections because they needed a layer of mud  in order to germinate.  Brown was here trying to come up with a plausible explanation  as  to why  no  plants  or  trees are found in the sandstone roofs,  and yet hold onto his belief  that the upright  trees  in  this  strata  were in situ.  While such a hypothesis is (perhaps) possible, there is another possibility as well.  

On its face, the idea that coal-strata trees would be unable to germinate in the peat itself seems  strange  when one considers that multitudes of forests are supposed to have (themselves) created the coals. 

Alternate Hypothesis:  Since sandstone is more likely to be deposited in rapid fashion than  laminated mud, we would expect to see even more upright trees preserved in the sandstone roofs;  but  instead,  according  to brown (and Calder) there are none. 

Perhaps the  faster moving water which deposited the sandstones was  the very  reason why no trees  are found above such coals.  Perhaps the upright trees in this strata required slow-moving  water  to hold  them  in place because they were not "rooted" at all but rather merely floating upright on top of an organic sedimentary deposit which would later become coal. In other words, the faster moving water was able to sweep away any trees in its path, and that such  upright  floating  trees  required  more  tranquil  waters,  along  with  some mud around their bases, in order to hold them in place.  Again, the implications of this would mean that none of  the upright trees and tree stumps in this strata are   in situ, but rather the result of drifted material.

Iron Pyrites in Coal: With  regard  to the  presence  of  iron pyrites in  the  coals we  are told  that:

"... the... upper part of  the seam appears invariably to be influenced by the nature of the roof,  the  coal being highly  charged with  iron pyrites under a sandstone, but quite free from it under a shale roof *."  70

We are also told that there is an: "absence of  iron  pyrites from  the upper part of the coal seam." 70  
In this regard Brown also provides the following additional note:

"* Mr. Buddle states in the Trans. of  the Nat. Hist.  Society of  Newcastle, vol. i. p. 217,  that the coal seams in  Northumberland are always more or less intermixed with iron pyrites under a sandstone roof." 70 **

According to Gibling, the presence of  iron pyrites  and sulphur in coal  is evidence of marine influence.  Additional evidence for marine influences at  Joggins  is  presented in  Part Two.  With  regard to the other drawing (Figure 9 above) we are told that the :
"The roots ... repeatedly ramify as their distance  from the stem  increases, and ... terminate in broad flattened points." 70 **

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the trees, in figures 6 and 9 (above), are the missing roots.  With  regard to fig. 6, it appears that the whole root on the right side of the tree has been broken off.  Figure 9, on the other hand, has fairly long roots.  Brown refers to their  terminations as "broad flattened points,"  however,  upon closer inspection it appears that the "points" are significantly more flattened than pointed -- suggesting that they have been truncated.  Thus it appears these stumps also were likely not be in their original growth  locations.

Lepidodendra Rarely Found with Attached Roots:
Dawson made the following comment with regard to the rarity of finding rootlets attached to Lepidodendra:

"The Lepidodendra ... roots  would appear to have been constructed on  the same regular type with those of  the  Sigillaria.  Mr. Brown ... has described some trees believed to be  Lepidodendra ... having such roots,  in the coal-field  of Cape Breton.  Mr. Carruthers ... has  recently made a similar statement in regard to  Lepidodendra in the  British coal-fields.  I have not, however,  met with any instance of this in Nova Scotia." 71 **


A  Stigmaria (Root) From Joggins With Attached Rootlets:
Below is the only published drawing I could find of a Stigmaria root from Joggins with attached rootlets.  It was found in "micaceous sandstone" and described by Sir Charles Lyell. 72  Regarding it he says:

"Stigmariae are abundant in the argillaceous sandstones  of these coal measures, often with their leaves attached, and spreading regularly in all directions  from the stem.  It commonly happens here, as in Europe that when this plant occurs in  sandstone, none of  its leaf-like  processes (or rootlets-?) are  attached, but  I  saw one remarkable exception in strata of  micaceous sandstone ... The  stem  was about four inches thick ... and traversed  obliquely several layers of fine white micaceous sandstone two  feet  in vertical  thickness."  p.156 **

    After Lyell, Sir Charles, 1845;
    Travels in North America,
    Canada  and Nova Scotia, with
    Geological  Observations; 
   
p. 151; Fig. 20.   

 

 

Comments:  
Lyell here admits that Stigmaria (fragments ?) are abundantly found in the argillaceous (i.e. clay-impregnated) sandstones of these coal measures -- "often"  with their "leaves"  (or rootlets) attached.  However,  since such sandstones are not the most common type of sediments found beneath the coal seams, their  occurrence -- even with "attached" rootlets, does not indicate that they grew there.  We can  say  this because of  what else Lyell tells us about these roots: i.e. that they  are also "commonly" found with "none  of" their "leaf-like processes attached. Such statements are contradictory, and present another obstacle to the growth  in situ hypothesis.  If these roots were in situ, or in their original positions of growth, then shouldn't virtually all of them have attached rootlets?  If  however, they are not in  situ, then they must have been uprooted: something which would account  for  their  common absence.

However, there  is  another  point that should be addressed  as well: the fact  that this  was the  only illustration that this author could find of a Stigmaria with attached rootlets  in the  Joggins area  strata, and that such a root was not attached to a tree, but rather a fragment.  Such a rare exception  (of  an upright Sigillaria or Lepidodendron tree with both roots and rootlets attached) was something  that  Dawson, also mentioned in his writings, and is verified by the fact that  he could not  (or rather did not)  find even one example of such a tree in the Joggins strata that he deemed worthy  to depict  in  his  writings, but rather, for such an example, turned to the writings of  Brown and  the Sidney area, that he said was very similar to that of Joggins.  This  tree is discussed  in  Part  Two of  this paper. 

Is it 'In Situ'  
It is immediately apparent that the above Stigmaria (with rootlets) is not attached to a tree, but rather appears to have been broken off  from one.  Notice also  that it is imbedded in the  sandstone  at an angle of about 45  degrees to the  strata.  This  is important  because, if  this root  is in  situ, and if  the Sigillaria  trees at Joggins are  also  in  situ, then  their  roots not  only  spread out horizontally from their bases, but at least some of them should be observed  to  go down  into the "soil" in which they  were "rooted."  This  presents a problem for the in situ theory, because it requires those who believe it to  assume that  the upright  Sigillaria trees at Joggins were able to penetrate down into  sandstone at  45 degree angles, but not  at  similar angles into mud, peat and clay.  This is because the roots of  these trees are rarely observed to penetrate  into these "seat-earth" / "soils."  However, we do find abundant (vertically  positioned) rootlets in these same "soils".  This suggests that the above root in sandstone is itself probably not  in situ, or that few (if any) of  the upright trees in this strata were buried in their original positions of growth: perhaps both.

End of Part One

Copyright  2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2013,  Randy S. Berg;  
Copies and excerpts may be distributed freely for educational purposes.


Part Two
References 
Polystrate Fossils

Upright Trees In Coal
 
The Underclays of Joggins  

 

See Also:

The Age of the Earth: 

Introduction: 

Part One: 
Radiometric Dating 

Part Two: 
Continental Drift 

Part Three: 
The Big Bang 

Part Four: 
Worldwide Flood Evidence 

Part Five: 
Evidence for a Young Earth 

Six Days vs Six Epochs 

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