State Fossil - Pefossil imagertica quadrifaria

fossil image

Illustration of Pertica quadrifaria from
University of Maine at Presque Isle

Pertica quadrifaria is the scientific name of a primitive plant that lived about 390,000,000 years ago during the Devonian Period. Its fossilized remains were discovered in 1968 in the rocks of the Trout Valley Formation in Baxter State Park near Mount Katahdin. Based on the type of rock it is found in today and the other fossils associated with it, Pertica quadrifaria grew in a brackish or freshwater marsh near an active volcano. Fragments of the plants were preserved when they fell into the marsh and were covered by sediment before they could decay. After millions of years of burial, the plant remains are now exposed along eroding stream banks.

The Pertica quadrifaria probably reached a maximum height of about six feet, making it the largest land plant at that time (Pertica is a Latin word meaning a "long pole or rod"). Its stem, which measured up to one inch in diameter, had both sterile and fertile branches arranged in four rows which spiraled up the stem (quadrifaria means "in four ranks"). The fertile branches ended in dense clusters of sporangia, or spore cases, while the sterile branches subdivided to form forked tips. These forked ends may represent the first step in the evolution of leaves.