Araucaria mirabilis Seed Cone Fossil Pair from Patagonia

Name: Araucaria mirabilis

Division: Pinophyta; Class: Pinopsida; Order: Pinales; Family: Araucariaceae

Geological Time : Middle Jurassic (Callovian Stage; 160-165 million years ago)

Size (25.4 mm = 1 inch): 60 mm long by 52 mm wide

Location: Cerro Cuadrato, Patgonia, Argentina

Araucaria mirabilis plant fossilDescription: This incredibly beautiful specimen is an example of the seed cone from Auraucaria mirabilis. This silicified cone has been sectioned and polished to show the wonderful interior (the species name says it all). It differs from pinecones in having only a single ovule (seed) in the cone scale, rather than a pair. The genus derives its name from the Arauco Province of Chile. Its closest relatives today are the Monkey Puzzle Tree of South America (I’ve included a photo of a branch section) and the Norfolk Island Pine.Extant Araucaria.columnaris

The genus today enjoys a disjunct distribution due to continental drift, being found in South America (Argentina, Brazil, and Chile) as well as New Caledonia, Australia, and New Guinea. The Araucariaceae had their maximum distribution during the Mesozoic, becoming extinct in North America with the passing of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous. These trees stood some 100 meters tall, and were felled by a series of volcanic eruptions, covered by ash, and preserved. Over time, water seeped into the deposits, digesting the ash, and depositing minerals that resulted in the panoply of colors seen today.

The bottom right picture above shows a branch of the extant Araucaria columnaris.

click fossil plant images to enlarge

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