Jurassic Park

Polly Hill Arboretum’s new guide to dinosaur plants

Will Reagan, left, and other Edgartown fourht graders watch as Polly HIll Education Coordinator Betsy Dripps, center, shows the winged seeds of a Tulip seeds. — Sam Moore

Visitors to Polly Hill will now have a prehistoric option in the arboretum: a new tour of tree species that have been around since dinosaurs roamed the earth. The staff of the arboretum, with help from Dr. Frederick H.C. Hotchkiss of the Marine and Paleobiological Research Institute in Vineyard Haven, have engraved signs for 12 trees in the arboretum that provide context about each species’ roots in the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods.

Trees like Polly Hill’s majestic dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), whose relatives coexisted with stegosauruses in the Jurassic, and the tulip tree (liriodendron), which grew alongside iguanodons and triceratops in the Cretaceous, offer a bridge to the past across hundreds of millions of years.

The dino tour at Polly Hill is also designed to line up with elementary school science curriculums. Starting in the fall, school groups from around the Island will use the map created by Polly Hill staff, as well as a fossil exhibit in the visitor center, to learn about the ancient habitats and saga of extinction related to the infamous “terrible lizards.” School groups are already interacting with the dinosaur plants at Polly Hill. Last Tuesday, a group of fourth graders from the Edgartown School were out drawing plants and learning about seeds. The prehistoric signage, although not explicitly part of their assignment, drew much interest.