Organic geochemical investigations of peatified and coalified xylem from gymnosperms have provided useful information on the organic transformational processes collectively known as coalification. The combined use of solid-state 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and pyrolysis/gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (py/gc/ms) has allowed us to examine the organic composition of peatified and coalified xylem on both a bulk (average) compositional basis and on a detailed molecular basis. We conclude from our studies that coalification of gymnospermous xylem involves the following processes: 1. (1) early selective removal of cellulosic materials so that lignin, a primary constituent of xylem, is transformed to macromolecular aromatic components in coal; 2. (2) modification of gymnospermous lignin by demethylation to form catechol-like structures, and by condensation reactions to induce a high level of cross-linking at an early stage of coalification; and 3. (3) dehydroxylation during increasing coalification to subbituminous coal, the resultant xylem becomes more phenolic in character as the catechol-like structures decrease. ?? 1989.