The Palaeobotany Review

How the review works

The aim of the review is to establish material that is of scientific merit and specimens which are good representatives, possessing public potential for display and community events. These two criteria do not necessarily go hand in hand; as a specimen may have a fantastic scientific research potential, but may not be visually impressive. Therefore the specimens are graded against two separate criteria: Scientific Merit (as a numerical value of stars) and Public Engagement (as a Gold, Silver or Bronze status).

For a more in depth look into the review criteria, click on the “Review Criteria” tab in the tool bar above.


The Palaeobotany review

The palaeobotany collection consists of 131 trays containing 1,384 specimens predominantly from the local region of West and North Yorkshire, with a few additional UK localities. The bulk of the collection is stored in the archives at the Discovery Centre, with some specimens on display at Leeds City Museum and dates back to the 1840’s; with a significant amount of material added to the collection during the 1970’s.

Stratigraphically, the collection predominantly consists of Carboniferous and Jurassic specimens, with notably absence of earlier and later material. The specimens in the collection are very strongly represented by spheonphytes , lycophytes and Ferns; with a moderate representation of other taxa; and a notable under representations of Ginkgos – for a detailed analysis, please read Karen’s summary at the end of this review.

karen overview

Karen examining one of the many specimens.


As in previous reviews which covered this amount of material, the best method is a systematic, tray by tray investigation; with the occasional specimen undergoing a prolonged investigation.

Dr Karen Bacon led the review, which resulted in the discovery of some incredible specimens…


Listed below are some of the highlights across a broad range of the collections flora.


The Gold specimens




Two wonderful examples of the Jurassic Williamsonia (3 Gold stars – Leedm.B.1977.30.02.05) exhibiting the underside of the flower structure; and the beautiful Type specimen of Williamsonia himas (3 Gold stars – Leedm.B.1977.30.02.09) both are from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England and are part of the T.M. Harris collection.






A truly incredible specimen of a Carboniferous Neuropteris (1 Gold star – Leedm.B.TN3541) with wonderfully preserved and interesting leaf variations in a single fern. Specimen has no locality data.




A striking specimen of a Jurassic Equisetum (1 Gold star – Leedm.B.1977.30.02.E) with no compaction and fine detail preservation. Specimen is from Whitby, North Yorkshire, England.




A very good specimen of Carboniferous Lepidodendron and Neuropteris (0 Gold stars – Leedm.B.1977.3.GC) exhibiting numerous fine fern fronds and Lycopsid twigs. Specimen has no locality data.




A truly wonderful specimen of Mariopteris (0 Gold stars – Leedm.B.2008.02.007) with beautifully preserved leaf details. Specimen has no locality data and is currently on display at Leeds City Museum.



The Silver specimens




 A wonderful Jurassic specimen of Equisetales (2 Silver stars – Leedm.B.2014.05.772) with no locality data. Unusual to find leaves preserved with the stem, and fairly rare to find in collections.




A striking Carboniferous Calamites specimen (1 Silver star – Leedm.B.2014.05.796) exhibiting slight compression and mineralisation, with good detail preservation. Specimen is from Leeds, West Yorkshire, England.




A very good Jurassic Anamozamites specimen (1 Silver star – Leedm.B.TN3979) with nice leaf preservation. Specimen is from Scarborough, Yorkshire, England.




A wonderful Carboniferous specimen of Neuropteris (0 Silver stars – Leedm.B.TN3337) fern frond tip with very good pinnae preservation. Specimen has no locality data.




A truly incredible Carboniferous specimen of Mariopteris (0 Silver stars – Leedm.B.2008.02.006) frond, with beautifully preserved details and veins. Specimen has no locality data and is currently on display at Leeds City Museum.




A very striking Ulodendron specimen (0 Silver stars – Leedm.XP.1979.3.LG) with nicely preserved distinct morphology. Specimen has no locality data.




A wonderful, large and very heavy specimen of a slightly compressed Lepidophloios trunk (0 Silver stars – Leedm.B.TN6566) with good bark preservation and Lepidostrobus seed heads within the internal matrix. Specimen has no locality data.




A very good specimen of Calamostachys (0 Silver stars – Leedm.B.TN2477) with fine detail preservation. Specimen has no locality data.




A wonderful Carboniferous Calamites tip specimen (0 Silver stars – Leedm.B.TN782) with very good detail preservation. Specimen has no locality data.




A very good Carboniferous specimen of Mariopteris fern fronds (0 Silver stars – Leedm.XP.1979.3.LZ) with beautiful leaf preservation. Specimen has no locality data.



The Bronze specimens




A good Jurassic specimen of Cladophelbis and an unidentified fern (1 Bronze star – Leedm.B.1977.03.02.30) exhibiting fair preservation. Specimen is from Whitby, North Yorkshire, England.




A good Jurassic Pagiophyllum specimen (1 Bronze star – Leedm.B.2014.05.793) from Gristhorpe Bay, North Yorkshire, England.




A good Jurassic Taenopteris specimen (1 Bronze star – Leedm.B.1977.30.02.26) with nice leaf preservation. Specimen is from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England.




A very good Carboniferous Sigillaria specimen (1 Bronze star – Leedm.XP.1979.3.JQ) with good coalified detail preservation. Specimen is from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England.




Two interesting Eocene Fan palm specimens (1 Bronze star – Leedm.B.2004.01.0027.1-2) from Bournemouth, Dorset, England.




A good example of a Ptilophyllum specimen (1 Bronze star – Leedm.B.2014.05.675) with fair leaf preservation. Specimen has no locality data.




A very good Carboniferous specimen of the rare variety Lepidodendron ophiurus (1 Bronze star – Leedm.B.TN3197) with unusual details and ridges preserved on the bark. Specimen has no locality data.




A wonderful Stigmaria specimen (1 Bronze star – Leedm.B.TN3334) with slight compression and good detail preservation. Specimen is from Yorkshire, England.




A good example specimen of Caniopteris (1 Bronze star – Leedm.B.1977.30.02.52) with nice detail preservation. Specimen is from Whitby, North Yorkshire, England.




A very uncommon specimen made up of numerous layers of compressed Calamites (0 Bronze stars – Leedm.B.XP.1979.3.AN) exhibiting fair preservation. Specimen has no locality data.




A interesting nodule containing a Neuropteris fern specimen (0 Bronze stars – Leedm.B.XP.1979.3.GQ) with good leaf preservation. Specimen has no locality data.




A very good specimen exhibiting Sphenopteris and Cylopteris ferns (0 Bronze stars – Leedm.B.TN825) with nice detail preservation. Specimen has no locality data.




A good example of a Carboniferous Eupecopteris specimen (0 Bronze stars – Leedm.B.XP.1979.3.DG) with very nice frond detail preservation. Specimen has no locality data.




A nodule containing a Lepidostrobus seed head specimen (0 Bronze stars – Leedm.B.XP.1979.3.EH) with fine detail preservation. Specimen has no locality data.




A very good Mariopteris fern specimen (0 Bronze stars – Leedm.XP.1979.3.GE) with nice frond preservation. Has no locality data.




A lovely specimen of an Alethopteris fern frond (0 Bronze stars – Leedm.B.TN5041) with nice leaf preservation. Specimen has no locality data.


The review covered 1,384 specimens, establishing the following summary.

bot figures

Gold = A truly amazing specimen; Silver = A very good specimen that has great potential; Bronze = A good specimen which can demonstrate a particular feature; Clear = A specimen that has limited visual qualities.

3 stars = High scientific importance; 2 stars = Moderate scientific importance; 1 star = Fair scientific importance; 0 stars = Supported by limited or no documentation.



Karen’s summary of the palaeobotany collection.

The palaeobotany collection held by Leeds City Museum contains many interesting and well-preserved specimens. The collection is mostly composed of UK (Yorkshire) Carboniferous plant material. The UK Carboniferous is a particular strength of the museum collection and contains specimens of high-quality preservation and of high research value. It is unfortunate that not all samples have specific collection location information, but this is reflective of the long time period covered by sample collection, with many specimens having been collected well over 100–150 years ago.

The museum also holds some excellent UK Jurassic specimens. Most notable are several beautifully preserved Williomsonia samples, a relatively rare Bennettitalian “flower”-type structure. Most impressively, the type specimen identified by Harris is contained within the collection. In my opinion, this would be a nice item to have on display as the fossil itself is scientifically important, beautifully preserved and Harris was one of the most preeminent palaeobotanists of his time (his 1920s/1930s and later work on Jurassic floras is still regularly cited).

Many of the Carboniferous samples are also extremely worthy of display, in particular some samples of Ulodendron, Sphenophyllum, Annularia, Neuropteris and Lepidostrobus are particularly nice for display.

The collection also holds a few samples of Eocene material and some Quaternary (Pleistocene) wood samples that are well-preserved and some nice polished samples of older wood samples.


Strengths: Carboniferous and Jurassic material.

The collection overall is impressive, particularly the extent of its Carboniferous flora. Several interesting samples were found that are easily worthy of display across a range of key taxa, including lycophytes (especially Lepidodendron, Lepidophloios, Lepidostrobus (spore-bearing cones; here too more detailed identification could be useful) and Ulodendron (some very nice samples)), spheonphytes (including Equisetum, Calamites, Annularia, Asterophyllites and Sphenophyllum) and ferns (including Neuropteris and Mariopteris and others but identification needs to be clarified). This covers most of the key taxa of the UK Carboniferous and makes a valuable collection with high research potential.

The Jurassic material also contains numerous very nice fossils of key taxa including Ginkgo, Anomozamites, Pterophyllum, Ptilophyllum, Zamites, Cycadolepsis and Williamsonia (particularly impressive samples). Each of these taxa are represented by some beautiful fossils worthy of display and all having excellent research potential.


Weaknesses: Fern identification and limited time period.

karen close up

Researching a specimens identification.

One area of concern is the identification of the substantial and impressive fern collection. The museum holds some lovely Carboniferous fern examples but the identification needs to be fully reviewed for all samples as I suspect that many are mis-identified or (more probably) are using older, less well-defined names.





While the Carboniferous and Jurassic collections are impressive and contains some truly excellent examples of these floras, there is little or no representation of fossil plants from outside of these two time periods. There are a few pieces of Eocene angiosperms and some Pleistocene wood, but other times periods are entirely absent from the collection. Whether this should be considered a problem depends largely on the aims of the museum (I feel that this is not a problem) – if the aim is to specialise in the two periods that are well-represented locally (Yorkshire) then this is a good strategy and is highly relevant to the local geology. However, if the museum wishes to hold a palaeobotany collection representative of UK palaeobotany though time, then some key periods to target include Devonian (Scotland) and Palaeocene/Eocene (South of England – Bournemouth/Southampton areas and London Clay). Some more recent samples might be nice for display purposes but I think that the focus on the Carboniferous and Jurassic is valuable as the collection is of high quality both scientifically and in terms of potential display items.
Note on the currently displayed items

The collection at the Discovery Centre holds a far greater variety and display worthy samples of plant taxa than is currently represented on display. The museum has sufficiently numerous and high-quality samples to develop a beautiful Carboniferous display in particular, and also to develop a high-quality Jurassic display (particularly in relation to Bennettitales).

karen inspect


To close

A lovely collection of Carboniferous and Jurassic plant material with excellent display and scientific potential.





The palaeobotany, along with all the other collections are open and free for anyone to view by appointment, just call Leeds Discovery Centre on 0113 3782100 or email


I would like to take this opportunity to thank Karen for this wonderful review. The amount of material covered was incredible, spurred on by the odd gem of a specimen. “Thank you” for all your hard work.



Posted on July 6, 2015, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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