By Steven L. Stephenson
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Additional resources for A Natural History of the Central Appalachians
12). The leaves were small and needle-shaped, with up to twenty-five per whorl. The mature trunk was hollow, and when the plant died and fell to the ground it often filled with sediment. When the sediment hardened into rock, the resulting fossil had the shape SEED FERNS The plant fossils that we collected near Fairfax Stone on the visit mentioned at the beginning of chapter 1 included numerous examples of fern-like leaves, and based on appearance alone these would have been identified as ferns (fig.
Not until the late Pleistocene and early Holocene is there enough fossil evidence to give us a reasonable picture of what was present. The most striking feature of the assemblage of animals found in the region during the late Pleistocene is the number of large forms that are now extinct. The large forms, collectively referred to as the North American megafauna, included such truly exotic examples as the woolly mammoth, mastodon, and saber-toothed cat, as well as representatives of several other groups such as horses and camels that survived elsewhere in the world.
The shrub layer is made up of woody plants that typically have multiple stems arising from the ground instead of a single stem, the usual situation for trees and small trees. However, not all plants fit easily in one category or the other. Witch hazel is a good example. Some stems of witch hazel reach a size large enough to be regarded as small trees, but in general witch hazel is probably best considered a shrub. Other common members of the shrub layer in Central Appalachian forests are various species of azalea (deciduous members of the genus Rhododendron) and blueberry, along with elderberry and mountain laurel.