Palaeobotany, a discipline devoted to the study of fossil plants (reproductive organs, leaves, wood, etc.), enables to reconstruct ancient climates and chart the evolutionary history of plants over geological time. The fossil plant collection of the Museum was initiated by Adolphe Brongniart, a pioneer of the field, in 1835.
The fossil plant collection of the Museum is one of the richest in the world. It encompasses various units formed since the 19th century by the pioneers of the discipline: Ad. Brongniart, G. Saporta, C. Grand’Eury, B. Renault, etc. The general collection therefore includes a large number of reference fossil types and figured specimens, which can be consulted for comparison.
Adolphe Brongniart’s (1801-1876) collection in particular includes many reference specimens for coalfield flora, corresponding to numerous species of the genera such as Calamites, Lepidodendron, Neuropteris, Pecopteris, Sigillaria, Sphenophyllum, Stigmaria, etc. This pioneering palaeobotanist collected samples from coal mines in the mid-19th century. The collection of Gaston de Saporta (1823-1895) comprises many specimens from the Cenozoic deposits of South-East France; moreover, this collection contains most of the types and figured specimens described by the famous palaeobotanist.
With tens of thousands of vegetal fossil specimens, the collection is a major palaeobotanical research base, both scientifically and in terms of the quantity of samples it contains. The collection comprises over 3,500 taxa, spanning the entire systematic range and virtually all of the planet’s geographical areas and stratigraphic levels. Remains of angiosperms from the Cenozoic are particularly well represented. The information on each of the specimens is currently being computerised, and the types and figured specimens have mostly been digitised and accessible online.
The collection is mainly used for fundamental research (taxonomic studies, comparative anatomy, systematics and palaeoecology), but also for public museography and teaching.
The palaeobotanical collection continues to thrive and evolve: it grows regularly with the addition of collectings carried out in the field by members of the Centre de recherche en Paléontologie - Paris (CR2P - UMR 7207 MNHN/CNRS/UPMC), or deposited by various palaeobotanists and geologists from other institutions, as well as donations from amateurs. It is also further enriched by the addition of other historical collections entrusted to the Muséum.
Around 600 contributors have thus participated since 1835 in the constitution of this collection.
Visits and loads for studies or exhibitions are managed by the head of conservation of the collection via the dedicated website.
Dario De Franceschi
dario.de-franceschi [@] mnhn.fr
Cédric Del Rio
cedric.del-rio [@] mnhn.fr