Coal balls were collected from four coal beds in the southeastern part of the Illinois Basin. Collections were made from the Springfield, Herrin, and Baker coals in western Kentucky, and from the Danville Coal in southwestern Indiana. These four coal beds are among the principal mineable coals of the Illinois Basin and belong to the Carbondale and Shelburn Formations of late Middle Pennsylvanian age. Vegetational composition was analyzed quantitatively. Coal-ball samples from the Springfield, Herrin, and Baker are dominated by the lycopsid tree Lepidophloios, with lesser numbers of Psaronius tree ferns, medullosan pteridosperms, and the lycopsid trees Synchysidendron and Diaphorodendron. This vegetation is similar to that found in the Springfield and Herrin coals elsewhere in the Illinois Basin, as reported in previous studies. The Danville coal sample, which is considerably smaller than the others, is dominated by Psaronius with the lycopsids Sigillaria and Synchysidendron as subdominants. Coal balls from the Springfield coal were collected in zones directly from the coal bed and their zone-by-zone composition indicates three to four distinct plant assemblages. The other coals were analyzed as whole-seam random samples, averaging the landscape composition of the parent mire environments. This analysis indicates that these coals, separated from each other by marine and terrestrial-clastic deposits, have essentially the same floristic composition and, thus, appear to represent a common species pool that persisted throughout the late Middle Pennsylvanian, despite changes in baselevel and climate attendant the glacial interglacial cyclicity of the Pennsylvanian ice age. Patterns of species abundance and diversity are much the same for the Springfield, Herrin, and Baker, although each coal, both in the local area sampled, and regionally, has its own paleobotanical peculiarities. Despite minor differences, these coals indicate a high degree of recurrence of assemblage and landscape organization. The Danville departs dramatically from the dominance-diversity composition of the older coals, presaging patterns of tree-fern and Sigillaria dominance of Late Pennsylvanian coals of the eastern United States, but, nonetheless, built on a species pool shared with the older coals. ?? 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
Place vs. time and vegetational persistence: A comparison of four tropical mires from the Illinois Basin during the height of the Pennsylvanian Ice Age