Notes on Fossil Plants

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Craigia is a living genus with one or two (the 2nd may be extinct) species in southern China. It was common in the Tertiary of western North America, Europe and Asia.

The European Craigia bronni is known from flowers, fruits and pollen. The fruits were previously known as Pteleaecarpum bronnii, Pteleaecarpum europaeum or Ulmis bronnii, and the flowers as Tilia gieskei. Leaves referred to Dombeyopsis lobata Unger may also belong to this species. Craigia bronnii is known from the Miocene of Greece, the Miocene and Oligocene of Germany, and the Oligocene of Hungary and the Czech Republic. [3]

Leaves assignable to Dombeyopsis lobata have also been placed in Dombeyopsis grandifolia Unger, Dombeyopsis sidaefolia Unger, Dombeyopsis tiliaefolia (A. Braun) Unger, Ficus dombeyopsis Unger, Ficus tiliaefolia (A. Braun) Heer, Cecropia europaea Ettingshausen, Cecropia heerii Ettingshausen and Sterculia dombeyopsis (Unger) Schimper [3].

Craigia is recorded from the Palaeogene of Sakhalin, and the Eocene Green River Fm of the Rocky Mountain region. Craigia oregonensis is recorded from the Lower Oligocene of Oregon.

Fruits of Craigia are recorded from the Eocene of China.


Florissantia is an extinct malvaceous genus found in Eocene and Oligocene deposits in western North America, from Colorado to British Colunbia, to which is given the vernacular name of stone rose. Flowers, fruits and pollen are all found. Fossils of Florissantia were formerly placed in Porana (Convolvulaceae) and Holmskioldia (Verbenaceae).

Three species are recognised; Florissantia speirii (Lesquereux) Manchester from the Oligocene of Oregon, Florissantia quilchenensis (Mathewes & Brooke) Manchester from the Middle Eocene of British Columbia and Washington, and Florissantia ashwillii Manchester from the Middle Eocene to Early Oligocene of Oregon, on the basis of differences in perianth and anther morphology.

The flowers are borne on long (up to 3 cm long) pedicels and have a large (2.5-5.3 cm diameter), shallowly campanulate, 5-lobed, persistent, fused, calyx. The ovary is superior, 5-locular, with a pentagonal outline. There is a single style with 5 style arms. There are 5 stamens with bifurcate filaments toped by stout anthers or half-anthers. The pollen is oblate, 20-32 µm equatorial diam, 3(-4)-colporate, with short colpi and reticulate ornamentation.

Florissantia speirii has also been recorded under the name Florissantia physalis Knowlton, Holmskioldia speirii (Lesquereux) MacGinitie, Porana speirii Lesquereux andPorana similis Knowlton.

In Florissantia speirii, at least, each sepal has 5-7 prominent veins.

The fruits have a large, persistent, membranous calyx.


A wood specimen with the characteristics of Reevesia was described as the new species Reevesia japonoxyla by Terada amd Suzuki.

Fossil fruits of Reevesia are reported from the Lower Miocene of Bohemia, together with associated seeds (Saportaspermum) and foliage ("Ficus" truncata).

Saportaspermum occidentalis is found in the Oligocene of Oregon. I don't know whether this represents a Reevesia or some other plant.


See also Intratriporopollenites.

The limes or lindens, genus Tilia, have a pollen record extending as far back as the middle Palaeocene, and a macrofossil record dating from the Eocene. The earliest records are from western North America, which, oddly, is one of the two northern temperate deciduous forest regions (the other is the Himalayas) from which TIlia is absent. A considerable number of fossil species have been described, but although the inflorescence bracts of Tilia are distinctive, not all of these are correctly assigned to this genus (e.g Tilia gieskei is Craigia bronnii). The fossil range of Tilia is more extensive than that of the living species; apart from western North America it is also found in high latitude localities such as Alaska, Beringia, Kamchataka, etc, where it was a member of the ArctoTertiary Flora, and it has also been recorded from Tibet.

Bracts similar to the living species Tilia endochyrsea, i.e. with the peduncle only fused to the extreme base of the bract, are widely distributed in the Tertiary of western North America (late Eocene to Miocene) and Europe (early Miocene to Pliocene). Bracts similar to the other modern species, i.e. with the peduncle fused to the basal third of the bract, are known from the middle and late Tertiary of Asia and from the Pliocene of Europe. A third type, with orbicular bracts, is shown by the fossil Tilia circularis.

  • Tilia alaskana Heer is recorded from the Miocene Kenai Fm of Alaska
  • Tilia aspera (Newberry) LaMotte, from the Miocene of Nevada, northern California, Oregon and Montana, and the Lower Oligocene of Oregon [b], is reminscent of the living Tilia mandshurica.
  • Tilia beringiana Budantsev, Tilia johnsoni and Tilia rectinerve are recorded from the Eocene of Kamchatka. The first is also recorded from the Palaeocene of Kamchatka.
  • Tilia brabencii (syn. Tilia lignitum) is recorded from the Early Miocene of Bohemia. [2]
  • Tilia circularis (Chaney) Manchester is recorded from the early Oligocene of Oregon and Idaho. It has inflorescence bracts with an orbicular outline and palmate venation, as opposed to the elongate bracts and pinnate venation of the modern species. [b, c]
  • Tilia crassipites and Tilia vescipites are recorded from the Miocene of British Columbia. Tilia crassipites is also recorded from Alaska. Tilia vescipites is also recorded from the Palaeocene of Wyoming, and the Palaeocene and Eocene of Colorado [1]. (Tilia crassipites and Tilia vescipites are species defined on pollen material.)
  • Tilia distans, from the Miocene of Japan and North Korea, has as an asymmetric leaf, with a truncate base, four basal veins, and a serrate margin. It is distinguished by the first pair of secondary veins being relatively distant from the base of the leaf.
  • Tilia expansa is recorded from the Miocene (Pannonian) of Austria. Tilia milleri is also recorded from the Miocene of Austria.
  • Tilia fossilensis Manchester & Meyer, Tilia lamottei Manchester & Meyer and Tilia pedunculata Chaney are recorded from the Lower Oligocene of Oregon. [b]
  • Tilia gigantica is recorded from the Lower and Middle Oligocene of the Czech Republic.
  • Tilia grewioides Hollick is recorded from the Palaeocene to Miocene of Alaska.
  • Tilia hallii is recorded from the Lower Oligocene of Idaho. [c]
  • Tilia inaequalis MacGinitie is recorded from the Oligocene of California and Montana.
  • Tilia incerta is recorded from the Pliocene St. Eugene Formation.
  • Tilia jacksoniana Berry is recorded from the Eocene Fayette Formation of Texas.
  • Tilia johnsonii Wolfe and Wehr is recorded from the Middle Eocene of Washington.
  • Tilia kabutoiwaensis and Tilia protojaponica are recorded from the Upper Miocene of Japan. The latter, presumably, is similar to the living Tilia japonica, which in turn is closely related to the widely grown Tilia cordata.
  • Tilia longebracteata is recorded from the Miocene of Bohemia.
  • Tilia malmgrenii Heer is recorded from the Palaeocene and Lower Eocene of Spitzbergen.
  • Tilia miohenryana is recorded from the Miocene of Japan. It is presumably similar to the living Tilia henryana.
  • Tilia oregona LaMotte is recorded from the Middle Oligocene of Oregon.
  • Tilia parvulifolia H.V. Smith is recorded from the Oligocene or Miocene of Idaho.
  • Specimens close to the living Tilia platyphyllos have been found in the Late Pliocene of Slovakia, and from the Middle Miocene of northern Germany.
  • Tilia populifolia Lesquereux is recorded from the Eocene and Oligocene Florissant Fm of Colorada, and also from Montana.
  • Tilia selardalense is described from the Miocene of Iceland [f].
  • Tilia subnobilis is recorded from the Miocene of Alaska.
  • Tilia tetraforaminipites is recorded from the Palaeocene of the western United States [1].
  • Tilia tsagajanica is recorded from the Eocene of the Magadan region of the Russian Far East.
  • Tilia tuberculata is recorded from the Middle Pliocene of Thuringia.
  • TIlia vindobonensis is recorded from the Miocene of Austria.
  • Tilia williamsii Sanborn is recorded from the Oligocene Scio Fm of ...
  • Tilia speciosissima Knowlton, recorded from the Palaeocene Raton Fm for the southwestern USA, and Tilia weedii Knowlton, recorded from the Palaeocene, may not belong to Tilia [f]. The latter may be a synonym of Celtis aspera

    "Tilia" wodehousei is a pollen species recorded from the latest Cretaceous of Colorado and New Mexico. Its disappearance is one of the markers of the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary. [1].

    "Tilia" cretacea Hollick is recorded from the Late Cretaceous (Cenomanian) Kaltag Fm, which is to early too represent a genuine Tilia.

    "Tilia" antiqua is caprifoliaceous (Viburnum tilioides).

    Tilia pollen, unspecified as to species, is reported from the Oligocene of the southeastern USA.

    Other published names include Tilia atavia, Tilia compacta, Tilia harutoriensis, Tilia inserata, Tilia irtyschensis or irtyshensis, Tilia megacarpa, Tilia meisenensis, Tilia ovoidea, Tilia praeparvifolia, Tilia praeplatyphyllos, Tilia pseudinstructa, Tilia remoteseirata (T. remotiserrata?) and Tilia waltheri.


    Material referred to Triumfetta is found in Eocene deposits in Yellowstone.


    1. Nichols and Fleming, Palynology and palynostratigraphy of Maastrichtian, Paleocene and Eocene strata in the Denver Basin, Colorado, Rocky Mountain Geology 37(2): 135-163 (2002)
    2. Kvacek et al, Early Miocene freshwater and swamp ecosystems of the Most Basin (northern Bohemia) with particular reference to the Bílina Mine section, J. Czech. Geol. Soc. 49(1-2): (2004)
    3. Kvacek, Early Miocene records of Craigia (Malvaceae s.l.) in the Most Basin, North Bohemia - whole plant approach, Journal of the Czech Geological Society 49(3/4): 161-171 (2004)


    1. Manchester, S., Inflorescence bracts of fossil and extant Tilia in North America, Europe, and Asia: Patterns of Morphologic Divergence and Biogeographic History, Amer.J.Bot., 81(9): 1176-118 (1994)
    2. H. W. Meyer and S. R. Manchester. The Oligocene Bridge Creek flora of the John Day Formation, Oregon. University of California Publications in Geological Sciences 141:1-195 (1997)
    3. D.I. Axelrod, The Oligocene Haynes Creek Flora of Eastern Idaho, University of California Publications in Geological Sciences 143: 1-99 (1998)
    4. Kvacek Z., Manchester S.R. and Akhmetiev M.A., Review of the fossil history of Craigia (Malvaceae s.l.) in the Northern hemisphere basin on fruits and co-occuring foliage, Modern problem of Palaeofloristics, Palaeophytogeography and Phytostratigraphy. Materials of the International Palaeobotanical Conference. Vol. 1. M.: GEOS, 82-104 (2005).
    5. Zetter R, Weber M, Hesse M, Pingen M, Pollen, pollenkitt and orbicules in Craigia bronnii flower buds (Tilioideae, Malvaceae) from the Miocene of Hambach, Germany, Int. J. Plant Sci. 163: 1067-1071 (2002)
    6. Grímsson et al, Middle Miocene floras of Iceland — the early colonization of an island? Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 144(3-4): 181-219 (2007)

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