Abstract

The Salpeterkop volcano forms part of what has been referred to as the Upper Cretaceous Sutherland Suite of alkaline rocks, an igneous province composed of olivine melilitites, carbonatites, trachytes and ultramafic lamprophyres. Salpeterkop is a remnant of the summit tuff ring structure that surrounds a crater which is almost 1 km in diameter and is filled with epiclastic strata.

Five pieces of silicified wood were collected from the crater filled sediments, sectioned and identified as a new species of Cupressinoxylon, C. widdringtonioides. This is the first example of the fossil genus in South Africa. Only one member of the Cupressaceae s.l. occurs in southern Africa today. From the wide and indistinct growth rings in the fossil wood it can be deduced that the local climate was warm and humid with little or no seasonality, in support of global records of a warm Late Cretaceous. The preservation of the crater further signifies the low level of erosion the region has experienced since its emplacement.

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