Carboniferous coal forests

Immense forests dominated by spore-bearing plants thrived in low-lying, swampy areas during the Carboniferous (Fig. 12.8). Extremely tall club mosses, Lepidodendron, and Sigillaria dominated the floodplain vegetation. Lepidodendron had a tall, unbranched trunk with a small canopy of branches at the top. Some plants exceeded 50 m in height and 2 m in diameter at the trunk base. Underground branched axes, Stigmaria, with root-like appendages, supported the massive trunk. The giant horsetail Calamites also occupied low-lying, boggy areas, although it was much rarer. This tree-like plant reached 30 m in height and the trunk exceeded 40 cm in diameter. Ferns and conifers colonized drier, more elevated areas. Towards the end of the Carboniferous, the low-lying, marshy areas dried out as the climate became more arid. The early seed-bearing coniferophyte, Cordaites, was an important component of Carboniferous forests. Reaching 30 m in height this repeatedly branched tree had long simple leaves and seed-bearing cones. By the end of the Permian most club mosses, horsetails, and coniferophytes were replaced with species more suited to drier habitats.

Lepidodendron: giant plants exceeding 50 m in height

Sigillaria: closely related to Lepidodendron, this species is either unbranched or branches only once

Sigillaria

Conifers occupying drier, more elevated habitats

Calamites: the tree-sized form of this horsetail was very rare

Conifers occupying drier, more elevated habitats

Calamites: the tree-sized form of this horsetail was very rare

Seed ferns

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