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Re: Favorite Living Fossil?



    My favorite living fossil is _Metasequoia_glystroboides_ (and I
must now stop and blush, because I can never remember for sure how to
spell the specific) -- commonly known in English as the Dawn Redwood.
It's a very pretty tree, of great antiquity -- maybe someone on this
list can tell us how solid the evidence is, that it goes back to the
Mesozoic.  If I am not mistaken, it was first known from the fossil
record, and thought to be extinct, until someone turned up a stand of
them in China, in the 1930s.
    I met it in person as two well-established individuals on the
campus of San Jose (California) State University.  The ordinary
redwood (_Sequoia_sempervirens_) in my back yard in Palo Alto had been
getting largish for a 50 by 120 foot lot, though it is still very
smallish for a redwood, and it would be nice to have another tall tree
already in place a few decades from now, when somebody cuts the
redwood down.  So I obtained a _Metasequoia_ at a local nursery, and
planted it.  That was two years ago, and it's doing well.
    Shortly after I put the tree in the ground, I ran across a small
fossil of a _Metasequoia_ leaf in a local curio shop, and bought it.
The label identified the site where collected -- somewhere in Oregon
-- my paperwork is at home -- and gave the date as Oligocene.  The
specimen is a leaf impression, in substrate that looks like clay or
mud not quite turned to rock; the matrix is softly brittle, like dry
cheese, and easily separated into laminae.
    I took the fossil home, went into the yard, and picked a living
sprig from the little tree.  I brought the fresh, green leaf inside,
and set it on the ancient death mask of its relative from long ago.
    The registration was perfect.

                                                --  Jay Freeman