Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 11, 1878
This text is also available in PDF
(185 KB) Opens in new window
– 536 –

11. “On the Fossil Flora of New Zealand,” by Dr. Hector, Director of the Geological Survey.


This paper gave a prodromus of a work on the fossil flora of New Zealand, containing descriptions and figures of about a hundred species. The earliest traces of plants found in the New Zealand rocks are in the upper Silurian formation, but these and also the plant remains found in the Devonian and lower Carboniferous strata are very obscure, and no structural features have yet been identified.

The earliest recognized forms are Glossopteris and Schizoneura, which occur about the middle of the Kaihiku formation, overlying marine fossils that have a mixed Carboniferous and Permian facies.

In the Wairoa formation of Triassic age, fragmentary plant remains are abundant. Dammara occurs, the wood having been identified from its peculiar structure by Prof. Unger*; also, fronds that are referred to—Zamites and Neuropteris.

The next horizon with plants is in the Flag Hill series, which is the lower of the three divisions of the Jurassic, and the following forms indicate an extension of the Indian flora of the same period far into southern latitudes. Macrotænopteris lata, Palæozamia mataurienis, Oleandridum vittatum, var., Alethopteris (two species), Pecopteris (three species), Neuropteris stricta, Camptopteris novæ-zealandiæ, Cycadites, and Echinostrobus. A closely-allied flora to this re-appears in the Mataura series, which is the upper member of the Jurassic formation.

The Neocomian strata (or Amuri series) which are so rich in the remains of fossil reptilia, are interesting from their affording the earliest specimens of a true Dicotyledonous leaf, associated with the foliage of Dammara and Araucaria.

[Footnote] * Hochstetter's New Zealand, p 57.

– 537 –

In the Cretaceous formation occur the great coal deposits in New Zealand. The associated flora, which is very rich in forms, has a large preponderance of Dicotyledonous plants some of which have been referred to generic representatives of the existing flora of this country, forty different species being distinguished.

The upper Cretaceous and Eocene formations (Cretaceo-tertiary) are blended and continuous in sequence and altogether of marine origin; but in some districts the sections are incomplete in their lower sub-divisions, and the coal series, if present, is overlaid immediately by one of the upper sub-divisions, indicating a probable continuity of land surface in some parts of the area throughout the entire period.

In the Miocene there is again evidence of wide-spread land surfaces in the South Island, at the base of the great gravel deposits that represent all the subsequent formations in that area; but in the North Island the Miocene and lower Pliocene formations are marine, the upper Pliocene being a lignitiferous series, associated with pumice sands. The flora of the tertiary period is badly preserved, and the collections are scanty; but as far as yet studied, it bears a very close affinity to the recent flora of the country.

12. “On the Fossil Brachiopoda of New Zealand,” by Dr. Hector.