Category Archives: Paleobotany

Fossil Friday – fern


Over the last year or so, I’ve posted many bones from large herbivorous dinosaurs that lived in New Mexico around 79 million years ago, such as duck-billed hadrosaurs, horned ceratopsids, and the armored Invictarx.

Continue reading

Fossil Friday – Palm Frond


I just returned from 18 days of field work in the Upper Cretaceous Menefee Formation of New Mexico. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – Palm Leaf

The fossilized bones of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals certainly hog the spotlight, and they are spectacular. But alongside the bones of giants such as Tyrannosaurus is a very different, much more abundant type of fossil: ancient plants. Paleobotany, the study of fossil plants, is a vital part of understanding Earth history. Fossil plants provide data on bygone environments, ecology, and climate.

This fossil is the impression of a 67-million-year-old palm leaf. It was found in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana by local fossil hunter Harley Garbani and donated to the Western Science Center by his wife, Mary. The living plant probably looked much like modern palm trees, and points to a much warmer climate in Montana during the Late Cretaceous Epoch than today. Next time you see a living palm tree swaying in the breeze, imagine a T. rex under it seeking shade from the midday sun.  

Post by Curator Dr. Andrew McDonald

Fossil Friday – Annularia

 I’ve spent the last week trying to catch up on administrative work while pouring over all the data we gathered during our “Mastodons of Unusual Size” road trip. But after several weeks of almost all mastodons it gives me the chance to feature a different organism for Fossil Friday.  Continue reading

Fossil Friday – bur-reed and other plants


Fossil plants often don’t get the attention they deserve, but besides being interesting organisms in their on right, they are in many ways far better indicators of past environmental conditions than are animals. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – Equisetum

Fossil plants never seem to get the attention they deserve. Fossil animals, especially vertebrates, certainly are fascinating and have tons of things to tell us (they are, after all, what I’ve worked on for most of my career). But plants are exceptionally good indicators of past environmental conditions, besides being interesting organisms in their own right. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – Carboniferous plants

 Last week I made a short trip back to Virginia for my son’s graduation from Patrick Henry Community College. This also was a perfect opportunity for some fossil collecting, so Brett, Tim, and I met DorothyBelle Poli and Lisa Stoneman from Roanoke College for a day trip to Beckley, West Virginia. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – Carboniferous plant donation


During my trip to the Midwest last month I made a brief stop at Earlham College in Indiana, where I have a lot of longtime friends and where I’ve done some work in the past with their excellent campus museum, the Joseph Moore Museum. While at Earlham I picked up a collection of fossil plants that were donated to the Western Science Center by the Earlham Geology Department. Continue reading