Petrified Wood: Rainbows in Stone

The gem-like cross section and petrified logs displayed in the Yale Peabody Museum’s paleobotany exhibition Petrified Wood: Rainbows in Stone in the Great Hall are portions of the trunks of towering trees belonging to a family of conifers known as the araucarians. In addition to these trunks, visitors can view striking examples of fossil cones and foliage that were once attached to these great giant trees. Araucarian trees are depicted in Rudolph Zallinger’s The Age of Reptiles mural.


Visit the exhibition


A wonderful opportunity arose for the Paleobotany Division in March 2000 when Ralph Thompson, a respected collector and dealer, came to visit the paleobotany collections and brought along with him several beautiful petrified wood specimens he collected near the Petrified Forest in Arizona. After his visit, Curator Leo Hickey and Collections Manager Linda Klise discussed the possibility of obtaining these spectacular specimens for an exhibit in the Museum

After a visit to Thompson’s extenisive collection and facility in Massachusetts, the Division was determined to acquire these specimens. In October 2000 it was awarded $10,000 from the Alex G. Nason Foundation, Inc. to purchase and exhibit two of these large and surpassingly beautiful specimens of petrified wood.

These colorful specimens are now showcased in the Museum’s permanent exhibit Petrified Wood: Rainbows in Stone, which opened in the Peabody’s Great Hall on June 26, 2003.

It is also through the generosity of Ruth Lapides, a long-standing member of the O.C. Marsh Fellows, that the Museum was able to obtain a spectacular slab of hardened volcanic ash, also in the exhibit, containing over 40 araucarian cones, some still attached to their branches.

So join us and discover an ancient forest that towered over the dinosaurs.



Leo J. Hickey, Curator
Linda Klise, Collections Manager
Laura Friedman, Exhibit Designer
Sally Pallatto, Graphics
Peabody Museum Construction Shop



Lizeth Lopez, Public Education and Events
Catherine Sease, Senior Conservator


This exhibition has been made possible by support from Ruth R. Lapides, the Alex G. Nason Foundation, Inc., and Ralph Thompson.


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, Curator of Paleobotany, available from The Museum Store.