Naturally macerated cuticles (NMC) and one synangium, representing medullosalean and marattialean tree-fern species, from two Carboniferous coalfields in Nova Scotia, Canada, are investigated. The samples were analyzed by infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and by pyrolysis-gas chromatograph/mass spectrometry (py-Gc/Ms) techniques in search for chemical signatures that would help in developing a chemotaxonomic classification of Carboniferous fern species, assuming genetically dependent make-up of cuticles. FTIR-derived CH2/CH3 ratios, in conjunction with contributions from carboxyl groups, demonstrated a better potential for discriminating between medullosalean genera and species than molecular signatures obtained by py-Gc/Ms. However, the latter provided better data for differentiating medullosalean from marattialean tree ferns as a group. Changes in the chemical make-up of naturally macerated cuticles due to sample preparation are discussed. ?? 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.