Deep Time

Here’s what boggles my mind. I am made more tender toward the living world, more in awe, more in astonishment of its creation and more aware of a Divine Matrix or God or Goddess or whatever you want to call it…by my own consideration of “deep time”.
And yet… to quote an article on Deep time (the concept that the Geologic time scale is vast because the Earth is very old): “Following the Protestant Reformation, the Genesis creation stories were interpreted as holding that the Earth has existed for only a few thousand years. Proponents of scientific theories which contradicted scriptural interpretations could not only lose their academic appointments but were legally answerable to charges of heresy and blasphemy, charges which, even as late as the 18th century in Great Britain, sometimes resulted in a death sentence.”
I am glad I don’t live in that time (do I?—sometimes I wonder) and I invite you to “grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time.” (quoted from mathematician John Playfair  in 1788). So, back to Oaks. This gives a whole new meaning to the word “primordial”. Start with the age of the Earth (4.54 billion years, more or less). Science indicates that something, something like an algal scum formed on land 1,200 million years ago. That’s a lot of time with no life. But thus began the The Kingdom of Plantae.

Around 450 million years ago, the first land plants appeared. 30 million years later, plants developed roots, leaves seeds and secondary wood. That was when forests first began to appear.  I am throwing the word “million” around here. I don’t know if you can take it in. I can’t, not really. That’s why, when we lose a species, or the structure that can support life it is such a big loss. It takes millions of years to evolve.

Oaks live side by side with pines and firs but they are a younger branch of the tree of life. The gymnosperms, the conifers–pines and firs– are much older, arising around the Carboniferous, about 300 million years ago.

Then at oh, about around 245–202 million years ago, the ancestors of flowering plants diverged from gymnosperms, and the first flowering plants known to exist are from 140 million years ago.

Then here is another amazing thing. They diversified. That gave them the evolutionary advantage.   The Division or Phylum Angiosperms (flowering plants) replaced conifers as the dominant trees only around 60–100 million years ago. Only. Mere youngsters. Then they started to further complicate things, developing more specialized plant parts, pollen, leaves and more orderly arrangements of their roots, stems and leaves. Over a few more million years, the Oak would evelove into 2 clades or divisions called Eudicots  and then the Rosids before coming to its first ranked division, the Order: Fagales.

This group includes the Birch family, Betulaceae, the walnut family Juglandaceae, and many others, including the beech family, Fagaceae. From there, it is further subdivided down into the Genus Quercus. All the gloroius oaks of the world are in this genus and they are found in many states and may countries.

Of special note are Quercus robur (Pedunculate or common oak) and Quercus petraea (Sessile oak).  These are the oaks that grew all over Europe, and which inspired the druid Oak Knowers. More later!

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One comment on “Deep Time

  1. robina says:

    Shann:After reading this blog you posted on the Oak, the time line, the genus, and Deep TimeI fall in love with your inquisitive and creative mind and your writing all over again.Great food for thought. Thank you.Your Friend,Robin Hotchkiss

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