Location of Connecticut's Petrified Forest
It’s a new day. As the sun slowly rises, a gentle breeze cools an already warm morning. Volcanoes rumble in the distance. Within thick forests of towering trees, small dinosaurs— among the first of their kind—scurry about, fallen twigs snapping beneath their scaly feet.
Welcome to Connecticut—210 million years ago.
But how do scientists reconstruct such ancient worlds today? By studying the rocks and fossils found beneath our feet.
In 1828 a woodsman in South Britain swung the blade of his axe into a tree stump that he encountered in a hillside forest. But this was no ordinary stump. He discovered what was only the second-known fossil plant locality in the entire United States, and what is still the only petrified wood site in New England from the age of dinosaurs. Today the area is known as Connecticut’s Petrified Forest, named in 2009 by Yale Peabody Museum scientists Shusheng Hu and the late Leo Hickey.
Many trunks and other pieces of petrified wood have since been recovered from this area. In examining the internal structure of the wood, Drs. Hu and Hickey realized that the petrified plants represented a new species of conifer. They named it Pomperaugoxylon connecticutense.
To learn more about ancient forests and the evolution of trees see The Forest Primeval: The Geologic History of Wood and Petrified Forests by Leo J. Hickey, available from the Museum Store.