Abstract

Upper Carboniferous (Pennsylvanian) terrestrial clastic rocks from North America and Europe contain compression-impression plant-fossil assemblages that represent the remains of plant communities that grew on floodplains, levees, and other clastic facies of fluvial and deltaic lowlands. Quantitative analysis of 66 plant-fossil assemblages spanning the entire late Carboniferous demonstrates that before the middle of the Westphalian D Stage the majority of plant-fossil assemblages are dominated by pteridosperms and sphenopsids. Lycopods and cordaites dominate only a few assemblages counted. Ferns do not dominate any assemblages. These findings contrast sharply with the dominance of lycopods reported by others from coal swamps of the same time interval. Above the middle of the Westphalian D, however, one-third of the compression-impression assemblages counted are dominated by ferns. The change in dominance pattern in compression-impression plant-fossil assemblages occurs half a stage earlier than the previously reported change from lycopod-dominated to fern-dominated assemblages at the Westphalian-Stephanian boundary in coal swamps. A trend toward dryer climate during Westphalian D apparently influenced plants growing on better-drained alluvial soils earlier than those growing on water-logged soils of contemporaneous coal swamps.

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