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Volume 82, 1954-55
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Upper Palaeozoic Plant Fossils from South Island, New Zealand

[Read before the Wellington Branch, April 28, 1954; received by Editor, November 6, 1953.]


Specimens from beds in Gore Subdivision, Southland, dated as Permian by marine fossils, have been identified as Equisetites sp., Cladophlebis royler, Arber, Sphenopteris cf. lobifolia Morris, Sphenopters sp., F.Neuropteridae. cf. Lingurfolium and Noeggerathiopsis lislopii (Bunbury). All these forms occur in the lower and upper Bowen Series in Queensland No glossoptends were found.

Poorly preserved plant fragments from the Te Anau Group of Nelson indicate an age of Middle Devonian or younger.

I.—Permian Leaf Impressions from Gore Subdivision.

Mr. B. L. Wood, N. Z. Geological Survey, during field work on die Gore Subdivision (N.Z. Mapping Service Sheet S170) collected plant fossils in the Arthurton Group (Permian).

The strata yielding the fossils are interbedded with Maitaia-bearing rocks and lie 400 ft. below Penman marine fossils possibly of Artinskian age.


New Zealand Geological Survey Paleobotany Register, B192. “Large quarry beside road, south-east corner of Pukerau Plantation, N. Z. Forest Service (S170/614, grid reference 030438).”

The matrix is a light blue-grey, moderately hard, slightly carbonaceous sandy siltstone, finely jointed, and weathered along the cracks These features made difficult the extraction of specimens over 4 cm across. The fossils are well preserved, and consist of fine, slightly carbonaceous films, in part compressions and in part impressions.

Description Of Specimens

The specimens were determined from available literature, and sufficient were identified with species found in Queensland to enable correlation with the Australian Permian beds. Dr. A. B. Walkom, Australian Museum, Sydney, N.S.W. checked the identification of Noeggerathi opsis hislopii.

Order Equisetales
Genus Equisetites Sternberg, 1833

Equisetites sp. Fig. 1.

B192/9: Fragment of finely ridged stem 3 mm. wide, increasing to 4 mm. wide at nodal diaphragm, with 8–9 paired ridges, and deeper troughs between pairs than within the pairs of ridges.

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Fernlike Foliage

Genus. Cladophlebis Brongniart, 1849

Cladophlebis roylei Arber, 1901. Fig. 2.

1901. C. roylei Arber. Geol. Mag. dec. iv vol. VII, p. 548.

1922. C. roylei Walkom. Queensland Geol. Surv. Publ. 270. p. 8, pl. 5, figs. 24, 24a, 25. (For full synonymy see Arber, 1905 p. 142.)

B192/1: Portion of an apparently lanceolate pinna, Rachis 0.5 mm. wide. Pinnules alternate, closely set, attached at base for whole width. Each pinnule oblong, ovate towards its apex, margins entire. Lower pinnules upcurved towards apices, 7 mm. long, 3 mm. wide at attachment to rachis of pinna. Upper pinnules 4 mm. long, 2.5 mm. wide at bases. Venation: Midribs of pinnules leaving rachis of pinna at 45°–60°, running straight for seven-eighths of length then dichotomising once. Secondaries arising at 30°-40° and dichotomising once distally.

The specimens agree in detail with Walkom's drawing (loc. cit.). However, Arber (1905) from a specimen from the Raniganj Group, India, shows the midribs of large pinnules (1.5 mm. long) as slightly sinuate. This may be characteristic of larger pinnules than the Queensland specimens figured by Walkom and the N.Z. specimens here described.

Genus Sphenopteris Brogniart, 1822

Sphinoteris cf. lobifolia Morris. Figs. 3 and 4.

1905. S. lobifolia Arber, The Glossopteris Flora p. 135, Pl. V, figs. 2–3 (with synonymy).

1922. S. lobifolia Walkom. Queensland Geol. Surv. Publ. 270, p. 9, Pl. 6, figs. 33, 33a. Pl. 9, figs. 49, 49a (with synonymy). (Fuller synonymy in Arber, 1905.)

B192/37, (Fig. 4) : Portion of a bipinnate frond, pinnae elongate, narrowed at base. Rachis winged, with midrib 0.5 mm. wide. Raches of pinnae 0.2 mm wide, with wings joining wings of main rachis and the laminae of pinnules. Pinnules joined for entire base, 2 mm. wide and 3 mm long, oblong, with rounded apices and entire margins. Venation: Sinuate midribs of pinnules leaving raches at 30°. Secondaries dichotomising at about half way to margin.

Another specimen B192/18 (Fig. 3) is the apex of a frond or pinna, simply pinnate, with the pinnae contracted at their bases and with lobed margins, more deeply divided nearer the bases than at the apices.

The incomplete fronds are most like Sphenopteris lobifolia as illustrated by Walkom (loc. cit.). His figures do not allow close comparison with details of the rachis. Comparison of the specimens described in the present paper with those of Arber (1905) is not so confident, as his detailed illustration of Sphenopteris lobifolia (Pl. V, Fig. 2, 2a) shows different forms of pinnules together on the same rachis.

Sphenopteris sp. Fig. 5.

B192/66, /68: Apices of pinnate fronds with subopposite narrow cuneate pinnae with entire margins, except for splits at apices of some pinnae Venation obscure, slightly raised veins dichotomising twice in each pinnule.

Picture icon

Retouched photographs of Permian plant fossils from Gore Subdivision.
Fig. 1.—Equisetites sp. × 2. Fig. 2.—Cladophlebis roylei Arber × 3. Figs. 3. 4.—Sphenopteris cf. lobifolia Morris × 3. Fig. 5.—Sphenopteris sp. × 6. Figs. 6, 7.—F. Neuopteridae × 6. Fig. 8.—cf. Linguifolunm × 6. Fig. 9.—Noeggerthropsis hislopu (Bunbury) × 4.

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Family Neuropteridae

Figs. 6, 7.

B192/63: Isolated pinna 14 mm. long, 9 mm. wide, obliquely obovate with cuneate base 1.5 mm. wide, margin entire. Venation: distinct, three veins at base (Fig. 7* *). Repeated dichotomies result in about 60 veins at margin.

The junction between the base of the pinnule and the rachis is not preserved so the specimen cannot be determined more accurately.

Order Cycadofilicales (?)

Genus Linguifolium Arber, 1913

cf. Linguifolium sp. Fig. 8.

B192/64: Portion of a lamina about 20 mm. wide, margin entire, sides, parallel. Midrib prominent, 1.5 mm. wide, giving off obscure veins at 30°. A few of these appear to dichotomise about half-way to the margin.

This is the only trace of any plant of the Glossopteris-Linguifolium form, and its fragmentary nature does not allow closer diagnosis. Gothan (1927) stated that the name Linguifolium should be assigned to fossils from the Permian of La Rioja (? South America) and the Permo-Carboniferous of the Transvaal Frenguelli (1944) suggests a new genus Velisia for leaves of this form from lower Gondwana beds, reserving Linguifolium for the upper Gondwana beds As no description of Velista is available, and the present material is so poor, a comparison with Linguifolium is all that can be accomplished now.

Order Cordaitales

Genus Noeggerathiopsis Ferstmantel, 1879

Noeggerathiopsis hislopii (Bunbury) Fig. 9.

1861. Noeggerathia ? (Cyclopteris?) Hislopu Bunbury, Quart J. Geol. Soc., XVII, p. 334, Pl. X, fig. 5.

1894. Noeggerathiopsis sp. Etheridge, Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W.; 2nd Ser. ix, p. 526. Pl. xl, fig. 1.

1922. Noeggerathiopsis Hislopi Walkom. Queensland Geol. Surv. Publ. No. 270, p. 33. Pl. 5, figs. 27, 28. (For full synonymy see Arber 1905, p. 179.)

B192/40: Portion of a leaf, with margins downcurved Outline curved and tapering to the base, margin entire; length 25 mm., width at base 4 mm., maximum width 14 mm. Venation: 12 fine veins at base, dichotomismg to at least 48 at top of fragment.

This specimen is similar in all respects to that illustrated by Walkom (loc cit. Fig. 28).


Cladophlebis roylei is known from the Raniganj Group of the Damuda Series of India and from beds “probably of Rhaetic age” in Queensland (Arber. 1905). Walkom (1917) recorded it in lower Mesozoic rocks in Queensland, and later (1922) described specimens in the Lower and Upper Bowen Series of that State.

Sphenopteris lobifolia is known from the Permo-Carboniferons of Australia (Arber, 1905) and from the Lower and Upper Bowen series of Queensland (Walkom, 1922)

[Footnote] * Fig. 7 is a sketch from a further exposure of the base, made often the photograph was taken.

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Noeggerathiopsis hislopii has been found in the Talchir Tillite of India, and from the Damuda Series. Arber has identified it from the “Lower Coal Measures” and Newcastle Series of Australia. He also records it from the Glossopteris flora of Tasmania, Cape Colony, Transvaal, Argentina, and “Triasso-Rhaetic? Tonquin? China.”

Equisetites is known from the Westphalian (upper Carb.) to the Jurassic and the family. Neuropteridae from the Lower Carboniferous to the Triassic (Seward, 1933).

The accompanying table shows the correlation of the various beds mentioned above with the type Permian of the U. S.S. R. The initials of the species found in the New Zealand flora are placed beside the beds containing them.

Judged by their known range in other parts of the world the New Zealand plant fossils are probably Sakmarian to lower Tartarian in age.

II.—Plant Fossils from the Rai Valley District, Marlborough.

The following collections were made by Messrs. H. W. Wellman and H. J. Harrington in 1946:—

B363 “East side Rai Saddle Hill Road (S15/505 grid reference 891380).”

B364 “Middle Branch Alfred Stream in bush, 3 chains below serpentine. (S15/506 grid reference 874346):”

The following stratigraphic table is based on Wellman (1952).

Maitai Group Feet.
Conglomerate, sandstone, limestone with marine fossils (Wairoa limestone) 7,000
Green and purple banded mudstone 2,000
Grey banded mudstone and sandstone 7,000
Limestone and calcareous sandstone 2.000
Te Anau Group
Pillow lava, conglomerate and breccia 5,000
Red and green sandstone, mudstone with rare plant impression. (B363, 364) 7,000
Coarse sandstone, sandstone with fragments of black argillite, conglomerate, tuff and lava 20,000

Marine fossils from the upper limestone of the Maitai Group (Wairoa Limestone are of lower Permian age (Fletcher and Hill, 1952). The plant impressions are thus Carboniferous or older.

The plant fossils are in fine grey sandstone, weathering to a light yellow-brown. They are numerous, small, usually amorphous fragments, but a few can be classified in divisions Specimen B363/7 has venation snirlr to members of the Pteropsida and B363/3 has a rachis that branches like members of this division. Two isolated ovoid flattened bodies may represent sporangia, or seeds but no internal detail is discernible B363/1 and B364 show striate stems which are of a form referable to many members of the Sphenopsida Judged by the know ranges of the Sphenopsida (middle Devonian-Recent) and Pteropsida

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(upper Devonian-Recent) (Seward, 1933) and the stratigraphic relation to the marine fossils, the plant fossils from the Te Anau Group are middle Devonian to Carboniferous in age.


Arber, E. A. N., 1905. Catalogue of the Fossil Plants of the Glossopteris Flora in the Department of Geology, Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist) London.

— 1917. The Earlier Mesozore Floras of New Zealand. N. Z. Geol. surv. Pal. Bull. No. 6.

David, T. W. Edgeworth, 1950. The Geology of the Commonwealth of Australia (Ed. W. R. Browne) Edward Arnold, London.

Fletcher, H. O., and Hill, D., 1952. Penman Fossils from Southland. N.Z. Geol. Surv. Pal. Bull. 19. 7, 18

Frenguelli, J., 1941. Sagenoptersy Luiguifolium del Las de Piedra Pintada en el Neuguen (Patagonia). Notas Museo Plata, Tomo IV. Palcontologia No. 34.

Seward, A C., 1933. Plant Life Through the Ages. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Walkom, A B., 1917. Mesozoic Floras of Queensland Pt. I (ctd.). The Flora of the Ipswich and Walloon Series (c) Filicales etc…, Queensld. Geol. Surv. Publ. 257.

— 1922. Palaeozoic Floras of Queensland. Pt. 1. Upper and Lower Bowen Series. Queensld. Geol. Surv. Publ. 270.

Wellman, H. W., 1952. The Penman-Jurassic Stratified Rocks. Proc. 19th int. Geol. Congr. Alger. 1952, Symp. Gondwana Ser.

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[The section below cannot be correctly rendered as it contains complex formatting. See the image of the page for a more accurate rendering.]

Table I.
U.S.S.R. New South Wales Queensland Peninsular India
Kazanian Upper Coal Measures Upper Bowen Series Raniganj Coal Measures Damuda Group
Newcastle Stage N
Toomago Stage
Coorabin Coal Measures CNS CN
Kungurian Middle Bowen Series (Marine) Ironstone Shales; Barakar Coal Measures
Lower Bowen Series N
Sakmarian C. N. S Gangamopteris Beds and a Talchin Tillite N Talchii Series
Upper Carboniferous

C = Cladophlebis roylci

N = Nocggeralhiopsis histopl

S = Sphenopteris lobifolia

Stratigraphic distribution in New South Wales Queensland and Peninsular India of three Permian fossil plants from Gore Subdivision (data from David 1950, table XVII).