Newly Discovered Plant Fossil

large block of sandstone with 2 fossilized leaves
Fossil impression of two pleated leaves of an ancient plant known as Sanmiguelia. Zion Museum Collection: ZNP 43201
In 2012, a rare and special plant fossil was discovered in Zion by Geologist-In-the-Park David Tarailo. Scrambling on the park's steep, crumbly slopes, the intern came across an unfamiliar fossil in a large block of rock from the Whitmore Point Member of the Moenave Formation. Local paleontologists confirmed that this was a fossil of the ancient palm-like plant Sanmiguelia, the first of its kind found in Zion, and the first within the Early Jurassic Moenave Formation.

Sanmiguelia grew to approximately two feet tall, with broad, pleated leaves attached to a narrow stem. It lived on the banks of slow-moving streams and lakes, and is thought to be one of the earliest angiosperms, or flowering plants. Previously this fossil had only been known from the Late Triassic Chinle Formation and related layers, but this new find shows that Sanmiguelia lived farther west and more recently than previously thought.

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Last updated: June 13, 2015

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