Photo by Nothing Ahead

There are many different types of plant fossils that not a lot of us are aware of, and we’d like to talk more about them today.

Being a paleobotanist himself, Thomas Mcloughlin, author of A Guide to Pennsylvanian (Carboniferous) Age Plant Fossils of Southwest Virginia, is well-versed in the kinds of plant fossils of the central Appalachian coalfields that paleobotanists dig up. Plant fossilization is quite an interesting process because various fossilizations can take place depending on how it goes.

Join us as we introduce and explain to you the diverse plant fossils in the world and what makes them unique.

Understanding What Plant Fossils Are First

Before we can begin to tackle the subject of plant fossils, we must first establish an understanding of what they are. In their simplest sense, plant fossils are the imprints of plant remains preserved inside rocks. They serve as fossil records about the time these plants existed and reveal their environmental conditions.

However, there are natural challenges that come with plant fossilization. Typically, the leaves’ soft tissues are damaged long before they can become fossilized. Leaves can only be preserved and become fossils in ideal circumstances.

The requirements for “Goldilocks conditions” are straightforward. A freshly fallen leaf requires little to no oxygen and an undisturbed environment to fossilize. It might sink to the bottom of an extremely deep lake or be covered by a landslide. This environment creates the ideal conditions for the leaves to decay and leave an imprint after millions of years.

Different Kinds of Plant Fossils

You can find lots of wonderful and rich fossil sites around the world wherein the plant materials were excellently preserved. Even millions of years couldn’t disrupt or disturb the fossilization process in these sites. This gifted paleobotanists some of the best fossils the world has to offer.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the different types of plant fossils paleobotanists unearth throughout their careers.

• Fossils That Are of the Cast and Model Variety

Three-dimensional fossils, known as mold and cast fossils, occasionally contain some biological material. These fossils are created when silt surrounds the plant before it decomposes (molds) or fills in a void left by the plant. Generally, these fossil types preserve the external characteristics of the plant yet do not disclose its internal workings.

Cast and model varieties are some of the plant fossils of the central Appalachian coalfields that those working in the area find. Sedimentary minerals like sandstone and limestone contain these fossils. They frequently offer an extremely precise image of the plant remnants, which makes them some of the best ways fossils can be preserved.

• Molecular Fossils

Paleobotanists look for molecular fossils to preserve the chemical remains of plants. Molecular fossils can even include petrified DNA and RNA, providing information on the plant’s chemical composition. Advanced chromatographic techniques such as mass spectrometry and spectrophotometry are frequently utilized when examining molecular fossil materials.

• Compression Fossils

These plant remains are two-dimensional impressions of plants crushed into a flat representation of their original form during fossilization. These fossils frequently still include some organic material. Peat and coal, which comprise various accumulating fossil plant species, are common sources of compression fossils.

• Compaction Fossils

Similar to compression, compaction fossils are three-dimensional, lower-volume forms of plants that are typically not calcified. These fossils frequently occur in soft sediments, peat, and lignite coals and still contain biological content.

• Impression Fossils

Although impression fossils and compression fossils are two-dimensional, impression fossils do not include organic material and are not parts of the original plant. In essence, impression fossils imprint a plant material in soft, fine-grained sediments like clay or silt. The impression will stay to become fossilized once the plant substance has decomposed.

• Permineralization Fossils

Before plant life decomposes, a process known as permineralization causes the plant material to get impregnated or saturated by a liquid rich in minerals. The three-dimensional fossil is created when the minerals penetrate the plant and solidify.

Due to the liquid’s ability to permeate every part of the plants, these fossils frequently provide incredibly comprehensive insights into the interior workings of the plant. A typical example of a permineralization fossil consists of petrified wood.

Learn More About the Different Types of Plant Fossils

Fossils thoroughly examine the conserved remnants of microorganisms and plants. They are defined as remains that date back more than 10,000 years. Many different types of plants have been present for a long time, even though researching fossils of the Jurassic period sparks the majority of curiosity. For example, the plant fossils of the central Appalachian coalfields are a gold mine of beautiful fossils we should give attention to.

If you want to learn more about fossils, grab a copy of A Guide to Pennsylvanian (Carboniferous) Age Plant Fossils of Southwest Virginia today. Also, check out our other articles and explore the subject of paleobotany and fossil plants further!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
Skip to content