Think Tank

Fossil Maple Leaves

These Fossil Maple Leaves indicate the climate in Britain was much warm 45 million years ago

Fossil maple leaves from Thinktank Museum

Fossil Maple Leaves

The leaves of the Maple tree are similar to those of a common Sycamore.

Trees are plants. Plants obtain their energy directly from sunlight, carbon dioxide in the air and water.

Modern maple trees shed their leaves in the autumn and grow them again in the spring. They are known as deciduous trees.

These fossil Maple leaves are preserved in a slab of limestone rock from the south coast of England.

Fossils are the remains of plants or animals preserved in rock.

More about the Fossil Maple Leaves

These Maple leaves are thought to be approximately 40-48 million years old and from the Eocene Epoch. They were found near Bournemouth in Dorset, on the south coast of England.

There are three complete Maple leaves, and fragments of at least two others preserved on this slab of rock. These leaves were probably shed at the end of the autumn as the weather deteriorated, but may have been blown off in a storm, as the stalks of two of the leaves still appear to be connected.

The scientific, or Latin, Genus name for a Maple tree is Acer. ‘Acer’ means ‘sharp’, referring to the pointed ends of the leaves, which can easily be seen in these fossils.

These Fossil Leaves may belong to the Montpellier Maple, which has the scientific binomial Acer monspessulanum. Today the Montpellier Maple lives in southern Europe. It is often used to produce miniature bonsai trees because it survives well in full sun and is resistant to drought.

45 million years ago the climate in what is now southern England was very different from today. The area lay at about the same latitude as central Spain today, and the weather was warmer and wetter. The air would have contained much more carbon dioxide, which would have made the plants grow more rapidly.

Want to know more?

To find out more about Fossil Maple Leaves, download the Resources to your right. 

These Fossil Maple Leaves are part of the collections held at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum. Use the ‘Thinktank’ web link below to find out more about the collections at Thinktank.

Fossil Seed Fern from Wolverhampton Arts and Museums

Many plants are preserved in 300 million year old coal. To find out more about extinct Fossil Seed Ferns, click on the image above.

Sheep skull from Thinktank Museum

Sheep have evolved teeth for grind up tough plant material. To find out more about the Sheep Skull, click the image above.