Research Focus:

Floras of the Antarctic

Feather Bay plant fossils Triassic photo

For approximately 30 years, our laboratory has focused on studying various aspects of plant biology during the Late Permian (~255 million years ago), Middle Triassic (238 Ma) and Early Jurassic (185 Ma) of Antarctica. One of the principle reasons that the Paleobotany Division conducts expeditions to Antarctica to collect fossil plants is the nature of their preservation. The best of these floras is anatomically preserved, which means that every cell within the tissue system of the plant is preserved in infinite detail. This comes about because waters highly concentrated with certain minerals infiltrate the plant parts and entomb the individual cells. As a result of this process, termed permineralizion, extraordinary details about the anatomy, morphology, and reproductive biology of the plants can be studied.

The fossil floras from Antarctica are even more valuable to study since during these time periods a number of unusual seed plant groups evolved, several of which have been implicated as possible ancestors of the flowering plants (angiosperms), the group that dominates the world today and that we depend upon for food and other uses. As a result of our studies, information about the evolution of some of the late Paleozoic-early Mesozoic seed plant groups has moved rapidly forward.​


Conducts research, research training, and graduate education that focuses on various aspects of plants in the geologic past—their global diversity, evolution, geography, structure, morphology, and ecology, as well as the stewardship of the collections for future generations. The researchers in the division also investigate various forms of microbes and fungi throughout geologic time and their interactions with plants.​

These studies are grounded in research collections of over 400,000 specimens and their associated data that have been assembled from all over the world, including the Late Permian, Middle Triassic, and Jurassic of Antarctica.​

Fremouw Peak Notophytum Leaf XS Triassic photo

Skaar Ridge Glossopteris Stem XS Permian photo


The paleobotany collections include compression/impression and permineralized specimens from the Permian, Triassic and Jurassic of Antarctica (Antarctic Collection). The remainder of the collection is comprised of permineralized coal balls from Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas and Iowa and compression/impression specimens from around the world and from stratigraphic horizons ranging from Precambrian to the Cenozoic.  The collection also includes Pennsylvanian and Permian compression/impression specimens from several localities in eastern Kansas.

Allan Hills Windwhistle Peak Rudolph Serbet searching for fossil plants Triassic 2012

Prehistoric Plant Name Honors E. Taylor

A new Permian plant fossil has been named for Paleobotany Senior Curator Edie Taylor in honor of her long standing, high quality  research with Antarctic fossil plants. The generic name Ediea, is in honor of Edie for her many contributions to the understanding of Glossopteris and associated Gondwana floras. The species name, homevalensi, refers to the collecting locality at Homevale Station, Queensland, Australia.​ 

Suggested reconstruction of Ediea (Nishida et al., 2013)