Origins of Coal

Jan 18, 2017

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Our 1880’s house in St. Matthews was built with coal-burning fireplaces. While I was working on an article for my column on native plants that is printed in the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Wildlife magazine, I learned that the plant in question, running pine or ground cedar, which used to be in the genus Lycopodium but according to John Nelson now gets called Diphasiastrum, is a club moss – and that ancient club mosses, 100 feet tall, were a major source of plant material in the Carboniferous period, over 300 million years ago, that ended up becoming buried in wet, swamp areas, changing into peat, and eventually becoming coal. The environmental conditions then were very different and more favorable for plant growth -- – today’s clubmosses are usually less than six inches tall.