plant fossils

Jensen, Douglas Paige jensendp at
Mon Nov 9 09:20:16 EST 1998

	For references with pictures, try any paleobotany 
textbook. Stewart and Rothwell (1993) and Taylor and Taylor 
(1991) are the most current, but your purposes may be 
served just as well with older texts.  Check out the 
carboniferous plants. It will help if you know the age of 
your coal balls (Pennsylvanian or Mississippian).  Once you 
identify particular things in the samples, the books should 
lead fairly easily into the appropriate primary literature, 
where pictures are plentiful, if you want to go that far.
	In my experience, 'random coal balls' tend to have 
a great deal of Cordaite leaves (they look like bicycle 
chains). Sometimes you will find sections of sphenophyll 
stems, , medullosan stems and petioles, or coenopterid 
petioles (Botryopteris, Etapteris, for example).  Every 
once in a while, you will find seeds or cones from 
lycopsids and sphenophylls, but these are not as common as 
the other stuff.
	Be sure your students realise that these are just 
small pieces of plants, and that they are often somewhat 
crushed. Also, taxa are erected for these pieces as well as 
for the entire plant.  
	This is a feasible lab, but the students' interest
will vary incredibly.  


On 6 Nov 1998 12:59:49 -0800 "\"Wilson, Rachel\"" 
<WilsonR at> wrote:

> In my plant biology class next semester I am planning to have the students
> prepare peels of coal balls.  We have done this in the past, but I would
> like to do more with the peels this year in terms of examination if at all
> possible.  Can anyone recommend reference(s) that may include pictures of
> (presumably) spores, stem bits, etc. of some of the major taxa one would
> find?  Comments regarding feasibility also welcome as I am not a
> paleobotanist!
> Rachel M. Wilson
> School of Science and Health 
> Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science
> 4201 Henry Avenue
> Philadelphia, PA   19144-5497
> (215) 951-2880

Douglas P. Jensen
Department of Biology
MSC 7801
James Madison University
Harrisonburg  VA  22807
phone: (540)568-3343
jensendp at

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