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Explore the Harrell Station paleontological site on Saturday

published: 05/16/2017

Explore the Harrell Station paleontological site on Saturday

On Saturday from 8:30-4:30 p.m., the Certificate in Native Plant Studies series at Birmingham Botanical Gardens will take a field trip to Harrell Station Paleontological Site, a 140-acre research site for the Alabama Museum of Natural History. The site offers exposed Mooreville Chalk and remnant Black Belt prairie. The area contains three major plant communities: open prairie, chalk outcrop and forest; these habitats are home to several rare species of plants and insects. Many of species are disjunct from the Great Plains, suggesting that a grassland corridor connected the two in the past. Made up of a series of 23 expansive chalk gullies, the site has produced over 80 different Late Cretaceous marine vertebrate species including sharks, fishes, mosasaurs and turtles, as well as occasional terrestrial remains such as birds and dinosaurs.

Visitors will have the opportunity to collect vertebrate and invertebrate fossils as well as experience the flora and fauna of the site. Midday, the group will visit nearby Spencer Farm (a sustainably focused effort) for lunch.

Reserve your seat for the trip online here.

Trip leader Dan Ehret spoke more about what to expect from the field trip. He is the Curator of Paleontology at the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

When and how did you first take an interest in this Dallas County site?

The Harrell Station Paleontological Site has been a well-known fossil locality since at least the 1940's. Mr. C.M. Barber from the Field Museum in Chicago came through the region in 1945 and discovered the wealth of fossils. Subsequently, Dr. Rainer Zangerl and staff from the Field Museum returned in 1945 and again in 1946 to collect for the museum. The results of their collecting was a seven part memoir on the Vertebrate Fauna of the Selma Formation of Alabama published as part of the journal Fieldiana between 1948 and 1970.

The 142-acre site was purchased by the Alabama Museum of Natural History in the early 1990s from the local landowner. Since that time, it has become the main field site for the Paleontology collections at the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

What makes the Harrell Station Paleontological site so unique?

The site is unique in that it preserves both the paleontological and ecological resources of the Black Belt region in Alabama. The late Cretaceous chalk (~82 million years old) exposed at the Harrell Station Paleontological Site is present underground all over the Black Belt Region. However, it is only exposed in limited areas (mostly along river banks).

Many of the river exposures were flooded during the damming of the Tombigbee River and many of the landlocked outcrops were eventually turned into catfish ponds. Harrell Station has remained untouched. Fossils found at the site are primarily marine; 82 million years ago it represented the shallow marine, continental shelf environment. We find: clams, oysters, barnacles, starfish, ammonites, wood, amber, bony fishes, sharks, turtles, marine reptiles (mostly mosasaurs), in the 1940s a dinosaur was found, flying reptiles (pterosaurs) and even birds with teeth (Ichthyornis).

How has it been able to remain relatively untouched for so long?

The site has been privately owned until the Alabama Museum purchased the property in the early 1990s. All of the surrounding properties are used primarily for cattle ranching. The deep gullies with their steep walls present a serious danger to cattle. Therefore, most of the 142-acres was kept fenced off from ranching and there is little other uses for the property. This meant that the property was left alone as the landscape around it was altered significantly.

To learn more about all of the educational opportunities The Gardens has to offer, we encourage you to visit our website, find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and follow us on Instagram. You can subscribe to the award-winning Dirt E-Lert, our bi-weekly e-newsletter, by simply texting BBGARDENS to 22828.

About Birmingham Botanical Gardens

A facility of the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board, the beauty and value of Birmingham Botanical Gardens are the result of a successful public/private partnership between the City of Birmingham and the nonprofit Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens. In 2016, Birmingham Botanical Gardens was named as one of the top three free attractions in America by USA Today. Education programs run year round and more than 10,000 school children on average enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually. The Gardens is open daily, offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.


Mother's Day weekend at Birmingham Botanical Gardens

published: 05/11/2017

Mother's Day weekend at Birmingham Botanical Gardens

There's much to celebrate this weekend at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Friday is National Public Garden Day, and The Gardens is Alabama's most visited free attraction. Each year, 350,000 people visit The Gardens, which is open every day of the year from dawn until dusk. Admission remains free, and the City of Birmingham and Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens are able to keep admission free and fund their educational program through - among other resources - the generosity of their donors. Consider making a donation this National Public Garden Day.

Mother's Day at The Gardens welcomes brunch to The Gardens Cafe by Kathy G. No reservations are required and the expansive menu, which will be served from 10:30 - 2:30 p.m. includes: chicken and waffles, eggs Benedict casserole topped with creamy Hollandaise sauce, smoked bacon and sausage, smoked salmon with an assortment of toppings, stone ground grits, an assortment of breakfast breads and pastries, carved herb crusted top round beef and an assortment of selected homemade cakes.

The Birmingham Rose Society will also be holding its 65th annual Rose Show and Sale on Mother's Day weekend. Admission to the Sale is free and it will take place on Saturday and Sunday inside the Garden Center. Saturday will begin with accepting entries into the show from 6-10:30 a.m., with judging to follow from 10:30-1 p.m. The public show and sale will be open on Saturday from 1-5 p.m. and on Sunday from 1-4 p.m. On Saturday from 3-4 p.m., Chris VanCleave will offer a free seminar titled: 'Which Rose is Right for You?'

And if you still need a gift for mom, Membership at The Gardens is a unique idea that will allow her to enjoy everything that The Gardens has to offer. She'll be able to shop Spring Plant Sale before anyone else, attend Antiques at The Gardens for free, take part in all Members-Only classes and get 10% off all purchases at The Gardens Cafe and Leaf & Petal at The Gardens.

To learn more about all of the educational opportunities The Gardens has to offer, we encourage you to visit our website, find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and follow us on Instagram. You can subscribe to the award-winning Dirt E-Lert, our bi-weekly e-newsletter, by simply texting BBGARDENS to 22828.

About Birmingham Botanical Gardens

A facility of the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board, the beauty and value of Birmingham Botanical Gardens are the result of a successful public/private partnership between the City of Birmingham and the nonprofit Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens. In 2016, Birmingham Botanical Gardens was named as one of the top three free attractions in America by USA Today. Education programs run year round and more than 10,000 school children on average enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually. The Gardens is open daily, offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.


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