The beginning of the Mesozoic saw a system of lofty mountain ranges stretching from New York into central Alabama. The end of this long era found here a wide peneplain crossed by sluggish wandering rivers and overlooked by detached hills as yet unreduced to the general level. The Mesozoic era was long enough for the Appalachian Mountains, upridged at its beginning, to have been weathered and worn away and carried grain by grain to the sea. The same plain extended over southern New England. The Taconic range, uplifted partially at least at the close of the Ordovician, and the block mountains of the Triassic, together with the pre-Cambrian mountains of ancient Appalachia, had now all been worn to a common level with the Allegheny ranges. The Mesozoic peneplain has been upwarped by later crustal movements and has suffered profound erosion, but the remnants of it which remain on the upland of southern New England and the even summits of the Allegheny ridges suffice to prove that it once existed. The age of the Mesozoic peneplain is determined from the fact that the lower Tertiary sediments were deposited on its even surface when at the close of the era the peneplain was depressed along its edges beneath the sea.
Plant life of the Triassic and jurassic. The Carboniferous forests of lepidodendrons and sigillafids had now vanished from the earth. The uplands were clothed with conifers, like the Araucarian pines of South America and Australia. Dense forests of tree ferns throve in moist regions, and canebrakes of horsetails of modern type, but with stems reaching four inches in thickness, bordered the lagoons and marshes. Cycads were exceedingly abundant. These gymnosperms, related to the pines and spruces in structure and fruiting, but palmlike in their foliage, and uncoiling their long leaves after the manner of ferns, culminated in the Jurassic. From the view point of the botanist the Mesozoic is the Age of Cycads, and after this era they gradually decline to the small number of species now existing in tropical latitudes.
Plant life of the Cretaceous. In the Lower Cretaceous the woodlands continued of much the same type as during the Jurassic. The forerunners now appeared of the modern dicotyls (plants with two seed leaves), and in the Middle Cretaceous the monocotyledonous group of palms came in. Palms are so like cycads that we may regard them as the descendants of some cycad type.