Collections

Together with the collections of the Museum für Naturkunde of the Humboldt-University Berlin, the collection of the Palaeobotanical Section of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Nature Museum in Frankfurt am Main belongs to the largest and most important collections of its kind in Germany and is of considerable importance on the European and even on the global scale.

A major part of the palaeobotanical collection at Frankfurt comprises macrofossils which were recovered from the Tertiary of the Rhine-Main-area and its surroundings since the 19th century. They are historically important and rich in type and reference material. This includes the numerous plant remains (now >35.000) recovered by the annual Senckenberg excavations in the middle Eocene “oilshale” of the UNESCO World Nature Heritage Site at Messel. Furthermore, there are extended collections, e.g., from the Pliocene of Frankfurt-Niederrad (so-called “Klärbeckenflora”), the Oligocene Rupelton (“Rupel-Clay”) of Flörsheim am Main, the Oligocene of Münzenberg in the Wetterau (“Blättersandstein” or “Blätterquarzit”) and the Miocene of the Rhenish lignites. The so-called “Klärbeckenflora” has been collected during construction work for the wastewater treatment plant (“Klärbecken”) of Frankfurt and is special in the fact that numerous leaves have been completely isolated from the sediment and are kept on glass-slides. More recently, a large collection of Tertiary plant fossils from the Middle West of the USA was acquired by purchase from a private collector. Some material from the Paleogene of Spitsbergen and 19th-century collections from Indonesia should also be mentioned here.

Senckenberg Palaeobotany started fieldwork in the Paleogene lignite deposits of the Geiseltal and Helmstedt Mining Districts in central Germany in 2000. Over the years a considerable number of individual sections has been studied, documented and sampled in great detail. As a result thousands of sediment and lignite samples now form a special archive in the collections which is not only used for running projects, but may also serve as a base for future research even after mining has finished finally in 2016.

The Devonian of the Rhenohercynian is another traditional focus of the palaeobotanical collections at Frankfurt. However, major losses of type and reference material to the pioneering publications of RICHARD KRÄUSEL and HERMANN WEYLAND due to side-effects of the 2nd World War have not yet been replaced by new material. The collection of JOSEF HEFTER from the well-known site of Alken an der Mosel later contributed important Lower Devonian material mainly during the 1960ies. Important acquisitions of the last decades have also added to the collections of upper Palaeozoic plant remains. They are from the Upper Carboniferous coal measures of the Ruhr District and the Saar District (collections of WOLFGANG SIPPEL from Hagen-Vorhalle, and BERND-ARWED RICHTER from the now abandoned Mine Camphausen, respectively). Furthermore, a lot of material (including well preserved silicified coniferous logs) has been collected by members of the Section from the lower Permian “Rotliegend” of the Wetterau and the Saar-Nahe area.

The material which RICHARD KRÄUSEL collected himself in areas belonging to former Gondwana during his expeditions to southern Africa, India and Brazil is mainly of upper Paleozoic age and includes a great number of specimens of silicified wood. More recently this material has been complemented by inclusion of a rich collection from Brazil which was dedicated by the late KLAUS-ULRICH LEISTIKOW.

Plant fossils of Mesozoic age are subordinate in the collections at Frankfurt, but there is few material from the upper Triassic (“Keuper”) and Jurassic. More recently, some material has been added that was collected in the NW-German Wealden facies (Lower Creataceous, Berriasian-Barremian). Furthermore, a large collection from the Araripe-Basin (Lower Cretaceous, Aptian) of Brazil has been purchased which includes interesting remains of early flowering plants and gnetophytes.

Another speciality of the Section at Frankfurt is the collections of ca. 5.200 microscopic slides. They include the cuticles which formed the base for the monographs of RICHARD KRÄUSEL, HERMANN WEYLAND and VOLKER WILDE (Mesozoic, Paleogene and Neogene) and thin sections of fossil wood mainly of upper Palaeozoic and Tertiary age. Furthermore, there are palynological slides, especially from the Devonian, Permian and Paleogene (e.g., Messel and the Helmstedt Mining District). Comparative collections of cuticles and pollen from extant plants (ca. 7.500) may be used as an important supplement for comparisons. Last but not least, the collections of nannoplancton (ca. 33.600 slides) which have been provided by SIGURD LOCKER, ERLEND MARTININ and CARLA MÜLLER are with the largest collections of their kind in Germany and around.