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Volume 81, 1953
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Plant Microfossils From New Zealand No. 1.

[Read by title before Geology Section, Wellington Branch, May 14, 1953; received by Editor, May 19, 1953.]


Seven new species of plant microfossils (spores and pollen grains) from upper Cretaceous and Tertiary fresh water beds are described. Only two, Lycopodium cernuoides n.sp. (Lycopodiaceae) from Waitahuna (Frying Pan) Mine, South Otago, and Proteacidites minimus n.sp. (Proteaceae) from Waitati, near Dunedin, can be assigned to Recent families. Of the others, Triorites spinosus n.sp from Waitahuna Mine shows similarities to pollen grains of some species of the Solanaceae and Tiliaceae and Tricolpites striatus n. sp, from Reefton coalfield, resembles pollen grains of a number of Recent families, including Aceraceae, Rosaceae, Sapindaceae and Nolanaceae. Triorites scabratus n. sp. from a bore in Bluff Harbour, T. dubius n.sp. (Reefton coalfield) and T. waitahucusis (Waitahu Bluffs, Reefton) are of unknown affinities.

Two species of proteaceous pollen grains are compared with Australian Tertiary species, Protcacidites obscurus Cookson and Banksieaeidites elongatus Cookson.

The known stratigraphic ranges of all species are given.


This paper is intended as the first of a series supplementing New Zealand Geological Survey Paleontological Bulletin No 22 (Couper, 1953). Seven new species of plant microfossils from upper Cretaceous and Tertiary fresh-water beds are described. The localities are listed at the end of the paper.

Family Lycopodiaceae
Genus Lycopodium Linn.

Lycopodium cernuoides n.sp Text-Fig. 1, Fig. 9.

Free, anisopolar, trilete, laesurae long, distinct. Sub-triangular in polar view, tetrahedral in oblique and lateral views. Exine 3–4μ thick. Proximal face unsculptured, distal face rugulate to pseudo-reticulate.

  • Size Range: 46–53μ, mode 47μ, in equatorial diameter.

  • Locality: L 215 (type).

  • Known Range: Arnold (middle and upper Eocene).

  • Remarks: The sculpture is identical with that of the spores of L. cernum Linn., but the fossil specimens average 10μ larger.

Family Proteaceae
Genus Proteacidites Cookson ex Couper

Proteacidites minimus n.sp. Text-Fig. 1, Fig. 2.

Free, isopolar to sub-isopolar, triorate, ora circular, up to 3μ in diameter. Grain peroblate, sub-triangular, sides straight to slightly convex between ora. Exine 1–1 5μ, thickening slightly near ora; sexine finely baculate-clavate giving a finely pitted-reticulate sculpture in surface view.

Size Range 20–31μ, mode 23μ, in equatorial diameter.

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Localities: L 337 (type) and L 296, 300, 384, 387.

Known Range: Taranakian to upper Wanganuian (Miocene-Pliocene).

Remarks: P. minimus is similar to the pollen of the Recent New Zealand species Knightia excelsa R. Br., but is considerably smaller, the size range of the pollen of the latter species being 30–42μ, mode 35μ. P. minimus also has a finer sculpture.

Knightia oblonga Oliver was described from leaf impressions in the Fraser's Creek plant beds (Oliver, 1936). Protacidites minimus, found in the same beds, may be the pollen grains of this leaf species.

Proteacidites cf. obscurus Cookson. Text-Fig. 1, Fig. 7.

  • 1950. Proteacidites obscurus Cookson. Aust. J. Sci. Res. B 3 (2): 175, P1. 3, figs. 30, 31.

  • Locality: L 366.

  • Known Range: Arnold (middle and upper Eocene)

  • Remarks: Specimens compare closely with P. obscurus in all features except size, averaging 12μ smaller.

Genus Banksieaeidites Cookson ex Couper

Cookson (1950; 169) proposed a new “sporotype” Banksieaeidites for subisopolar, bilateral, biaperturate pollen grains with an ectonexine thickened around the apertures. “They closely resemble pollen grains of living species of Banksia and Dryandra which comprise the tribe Banksieae, and there is little doubt that they belonged to Tertiary members of this tribe. Since, however, the pollens of Banksia and Dryandra are indistinguishable from one another, the fossil grains cannot be attributed to either genus”.

Sporotypes described by Cookson are considered by the writer as new genera and are validated by the designation of type species.

Type (here designated). Banksieaeidites elongatus Cookson. Upper Miocenelower Oligocene, Australia.

Banksieaeidites cf elongatus Cookson. Text-Fig. 1, Fig. 3.

1950 Banksteaeidites elongatus Cookson. Aust. J. Sci. Res. B 3 (2) 170, Pl 1, Fig. 10,

  • Locality: L 314.

  • Known Range: Arnold (middle and upper Eocene).

  • Remarks: Only two specimens have so far been noted from this locality. Both are slightly smaller and more distinctly sculptured than the specimen figured by Cookson.

Dicotyledonae-Incertae Sedis
Genus Triorites Cookson ex Couper

Triorites scabratus n. sp. Text-Fig. 1, Fig. 5.

Free, isopolar, triorate, ora circular, 4–5 5μ in diameter, 2 5–4μ deep, occasionally aspidate. Grain oblate, sub-triangular, sides straight to convex in polar view. Exine 1 5–2 5μ thick, distinctly layered in most specimens, nexine thicker than sexine. Sexine finely and sparsely scabrate.

Size Range: 22–33μ, mode 29μ, in equatorial diameter.

Localities. L 443 (type) and L 135, 300.

Known Range, Taranakian to Lower Wanganuian (upper Miocene to lower Pliocene).

Remarks: Affinities unknown.

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Picture icon

Text-fig. 1.
Fig. 1—Tricolpites striatus n. sp. Holotype, slide L 311/2
Fig. 2—Proteacidites minimus n.sp. Holotype, slide L 337/4.
Fig. 3—Banksieaeidites cf. elongatus Cookson, slide L 314/3.
Fig. 4—Triorites spinosus n.sp Holotype, slide L 215/3.
Fig. 5—Triorites scabratus n. sp. Holotype, slide L 443/3.
Fig. 6—Triorites dubius n.sp. Holotype, slide L 301/1.
Fig. 7—Proteacidites cf. obscurus Cookson, slide 366/1.
Fig. 8—Triorites waitahuensis n.sp. Holotype, slide 139/1.
Fig. 9—Lycopodium cernuoides n.sp. Holotype, slide 215/3.
All figures × 1000.

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Triorites spinosus. Text-Fig. 1, Fig. 4.

Free, isopolar, triorate, ora small, inconspicuous, circular, about 4μ in diameter. Grain oblate to subspherical, sides convex in polar view. Exine very thick, 3–4μ between ora, spinose, spines 3–4μ long, 1–1.5μ in diameter at base and sparse, 3–8μ apart.

Size Range: 31–39μ, mode 39μ, in equatorial diameter.

Localities: L 215 (type) and L 271, 303, 364, 366, 406.

Known Range: Arnold (middle and upper Eocene).

Remarks: Somewhat similar, spiny, triorate pollens are found in some Recent overseas species of the Solanaceae and Tiliaceae.

Triorites dubius n.sp. Text-Fig. 1, Fig. 6.

Free, isopolar, triorate, ora elliptical, tending towards colpae, 5–6μ in diameter, 5–8μ deep. Grain sub-triangular, sides slightly convex to slightly concave, between ora in polar view. Exine 1–1.5μ thick, finely granular to finely scabrate, completely surrounding ora.

Size Range: 26–35μ, mode 33μ in equatorial diameter.

Localities: L 301 (type) and L 215, 366, 430, 437.

Known Range: Arnold (middle and upper Eocene).

Remarks: Affinities unknown.

Triorites waitahuensis n.sp. Text-Fig. 1, Fig. 8.

Free, isopolar, triorate, ora tending towards colpae, ill-defined, variable in size, 3–5μ in diameter, 3–6μ deep. Grain sub-triangular, convex between ora in polar view. Exine 1–1.5μ thick, nexine 1μ, sexine 0.5μ, finely clavate-baculate, finely pitted-reticulate in surface view.

Size Range: 26–40μ, mode 31μ, in equatorial diameter.

Localities: L 139 (type) and L 137, 140, 300, 339, 384.

Known Range: Taranakian to Wanganuian (upper Miocene and Pliocene).

Remarks: Affinities unknown.

Genus Tricolpites Cookson ex Couper

Tricolpites striatus n. sp. Text-fig 1, Fig. 1.

Free, isopolar, tricolpate, no definite ora, colpae long, narrow. Grain subprolate to prolate. Exine 1.5–2μ thick, baculate-clavate, clearly striate in surface view.

Size Range: 40–57μ, mode 46μ, in polar diameter. 31–40μ, mode 33μ, in equatorial diameter.

Localities: L 311 (type) and L 289, 291, 301.

Known Range: Mata to Arnold (upper Cretaceous to upper Eocene).

Remarks: Similarly striate pollen grains are found in a number of Recent families, including Aceraceae, Rosaceae, Sapindaceae, and Nolanaceae (Erdtman, 1952). T. striatus is distinct from the pollen of any Recent New Zealand species.

List of Localities

The approximate correlation with New Zealand marine series is indicated. The sheet fossil number and grid reference to the appropriate map sheet follow the locality. L 337 was collected by Professor W. N. Benson, the remainder by Geological Survey officers.

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Slide No. “L”

Mata (upper Cretaceous)

289 Airedale Mine, N. Otago, S136/734, grid ref. 498789.

291 Rockvale Mine, N. Otago, S136/736, grid ref. 356523.

Arnold (middle and upper Eocene)

215 Waitahuna (Frying Pan) Mine, S. Otago, S171/506, grid ref. 519581.

271 Nile Hydro lignite pit, Charleston, S30/530, grid ref. 955536.

301 Reefton Coalfield, S38/596, grid ref. 387353.

303 Reefton Coalfield, S38/599, grid ref. 386355.

311 Reefton Coalfield, S38/589, grid ref. 349309.

314 Reefton Coalfield, S38/592, grid ref. 370332.

364 Dry River, Takaka, S8/535, grid ref. 242785.

366 Dry River, Takaka, S8/537, grid ref. 246786.

406 North of old Mt. Linton Mine, Ohai Coalfield, S159/569, grid ref. 942610.

430 Beaumont Station Rd., Ohai Coalfield, S159/576, grid ref. 009611.

437 South side of Rangihaeta Head, S8/547, grid ref. 189874.

Taranakian (upper Miocene)—Lower Wanganuian (lower Pliocene).

135 Flat Creek, Te Waewae Bay, W. Southland, S175/587, grid ref. 270534.

137 Farrel's Cutting near Reefton, S38/553, grid ref. 319278.

139 Waitahu Bluffs, near Reefton, S38/555, grid ref. 361337.

300 Waimatua, near Invercargill, S182/508, grid ref. 439975.

337 Waitati, near Dunedin, S164/501, grid ref. 118858.

384 Makirikiri Stream, N.W. Ruahines, N133/540, grid ref. 363332.

(Ruahine Map, Lands and Survey, 1951)

387 Fraser's Creek plant beds, Kaikorai Valley, Dunedin S164/502, grid ref. 122730.

443 Bore D. 1, Bluff Harbour, 56–57μ, below sea-bed level, S182/521, grid ref. 345805.

Middle and Upper Wanganuian (middle and upper Pliocene)

140 Reefton Saddle railway crossing, S38/556, grid ref. 289266.

296 Ohuka Creek, West Auckland, N55/522, grid ref. 277788.

339 Reefton Saddle (200ft. stratigraphically above S38/556), S38/557, 289266.


Cookson, Isabel C., 1950. Fossil Pollen Grains of Proteaceous Type from Tertiary Deposits in Australia. Aust. J. Sci. Res. B 3 (2): 166–177.

Couper, R. A., 1953. Upper Mesozoic and Cainozoic Spores and Pollen Grains from New Zealand. N.Z. Geol. Surv. Pal. Bull. 22.

Erdtman, G., 1952. Pollen Morphology and Plant Taxonomy. Angiosperms (An Introduction to Palynology. I). Almqvist and Wiksells, Stockholm, Sweden.

Oliver, W. R. B., 1936. The Tertiary Flora of the Kaikorai Valley, Otago, New Zealand. Trans. Roy. Soc. N.Z. 66: 284–304.