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Green River Fossil Plants


Abundant plants grew on broad swampy areas that developed around the margins of the intermountain lakes of the Green River Formation. These plants were often preserved in the fine-grained limestones, marls and oil shales of the lakes or in the clastic rocks associated with the swamps. Photos by the National Park Service - Fossil Butte National Monument.

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Green River fossil leaf
Over 300 fossil plants have been discovered in the Fossil Lake deposits.

Green River fossil flower
The detailed preservation of this flower is due, in part, to the fine-grained nature of the limestone matrix it is found in.

Green River fossil leaf
Plants are key to understanding past climates. If a population of 25 or more different shaped leaves are collected from a locality, paleontologists use a technique called leaf-margin analysis to estimate temperature and rainfall.

Green River fossil palm
The presence of palm fossils indicate a much warmer and wetter climate 50 million years ago, probably similar to Florida's climate today.

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Green River fossil leaf
Two hundred and seventy six leaves, seeds and flowers are known from the Fossil Lake deposits. Fossil plants are key in determining the climate of past environments. National Park Service photo.

Green River fossil plant
Fossilized plants are more difficult to identify than living plants because their parts often become separated before they are preserved. The plant that produced this flower may be impossible to identify because it is not attached to the rest of the plant. National Park Service photo.

Green River fossil leaf
Fossilized plants are often difficult to identify because their parts, stem, roots, leaves, and fruiting structures are often not attached. National Park Service photo.

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