Fossil Plants of the London Clay

Palaeontological Association Field Guide to Fossils No 1

By Margaret E Collinson

Increasingly nowadays, the London Clay Formation is becoming a favourite hunting ground for fossils and several good books have been written about it (for example, London Clay Fossils of Kent and Essex by David Rayner and others. There is also A Pocket Guide to the London Clay exposed on the north shore of the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, but this is more for beginners and children.)

This guide, written by eminent plant palaeobotanist, Margaret Collinson was the first published by PalAss in its library of guides to (usually) UK fossils for professionals and amateurs alike.

The London Clay Formation is a marine geological formation of Ypresian age (early Eocene Epoch, about 56 and 49 million years ago), which appears in the southeast of England. The fossils from these lower Eocene rocks suggest a moderately warm climate, with the tropical or subtropical flora.

Although sea levels changed during the deposition of the clay, the habitat was generally a lush forest, much like Indonesia or East Africa today, bordering a warm, shallow ocean. Therefore, the London Clay contains (among other things) a rich, diverse and historically important Eocene flora.

Fossil Plants of the London Clay was probably the first guide to provide black and white photographic illustrations identifying over 250 species, including all of the common plant macrofossils, and it is still the best. It covers the modern angiosperm families, whose fruits and seeds are well represented in the London Clay Flora. It also discusses the paleoenvironmental implications of this flora, together with details of 22 locations in the London and Hampshire Basins (many of which still exist). In addition, it supplies notes on collecting and conservation.

The book is aimed at the amateur collector. So if you want a great guide to what you can collect from the London Clay, this guide is definitely for you.

Fossils Plants of the London Clay: Guide No 1, by Margaret E Collinson, The Palaeontological Association, London (2002), 121 pages (paperback), ISBN: 0901702269

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