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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 12, 2005

UI's Giant Fossil Scale Tree Being Prepared For Display At Smithsonian

Iowans planning to visit Washington, D.C. may be interested to know that a new addition to the Smithsonian Institution's permanent collection for public display will feature a University of Iowa gift in the form of a Giant Fossil Scale Tree.

One of the largest plant fossils ever collected at 13 feet long by 12 feet high and weighing more than 16 tons, the fossil was shipped from the UI to the Smithsonian in June 2005. Jeff Schabilion, professor in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biological Sciences, originally collected the approximately 300 million-year-old Coal Age fossil tree specimen in the 1970s from an abandoned quarry on the Jake Rus family farm near Pella, Iowa.

Smithsonian workers currently are working in the Institution's Mall-side parking lot to reduce the size of the block. After the specimen is light enough that the Museum's floors can safely support it, the fossil will be brought inside for additional preparation and display.

"This fossil has provided us with an exiting glimpse of the tropical rainforest vegetation that was the source material for Midwestern coal deposits," Schabilion said.

Just in case you can't make it to Washington, D.C., you can still view the tree fossil by visiting the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History Web site at: or directly at:

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,