Identification of a population of Ranunculus achenes extracted from Middle Pleistocene sediments exposed at Belhus Park, Essex, UK

Open access


A plant macrofossil assemblage extracted from Middle Pleistocene fluvial organic sediments collected from Belhus Park, Aveley, Essex, UK contained a number of tuberculate (verrucose) achenes attributed to the genus Ranunculus, one of which had two short spines preserved on its surface. The identification of these achenes is discussed here. This is worthy of note because Ranunculus tuberculate or spinose fossil achenes can be difficult to determine to species as they can have similar features, some Ranunculus species produce achenes in several morphological forms, and during fossilization delicate structures maybe destroyed (e.g. spines). After careful morphological consideration it is concluded that the fossil achenes from Belhus Park are Ranunculus parviflorus L., indicating that dry grassland or disturbed ground existed in the river catchment. The plant macrofossil assemblages that included the Ranunculus parviflorus achenes were dominated by waterside, damp ground, and aquatic taxa. It is probable that flowing water transported the achenes from further afield before their incorporation into the fluvial sediments. The identification of these fossils illustrates the importance of considering the morphological characteristics of the achene only and not to make a determination on the nature of the predominant palaeoenvironmental signal from an assemblage.

  • BERGGREN G. 1981. Atlas of seeds. Part 3. Salicaceae - Cruciferae. Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, Sweden.

  • BOJŇANSKÝ V. & FARGAŠOVÁ A. 2007. Atlas of seeds and fruits of central and east-European flora - the Carpathian Mountains region. Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.

  • BOULOS L. 1999. Flora of Egypt (Volume 1. Azollaceae - Oxalidaceae). Al Hadara Publishing, Cairo, Egypt.

  • FLORA EUROPAEA. 1964-1993. 5 volumes. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

  • GIBBARD P.L. 1994. Pleistocene History of the Lower Thames Valley. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. d’OLIVA T H.J.P. & PAL S J.P. 1974. Determination tables and descriptions of the seeds and fruits of the Ranunculaceae occurring in The Netherlands. I.P.P. Publicatie, 149: 1-7.

  • PENKMAN K.E.H., PREECE R.C., BRIDGLA ND D.R., KEEN D.H., MEIJER T., PARFITT S.A., WHITE T.S. & COLL INS M.J. 2011. A chronological framework for the British Quaternary based on Bithyniaopercula. Nature, 476: 446-449.

  • STACE C. 1997. New Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

  • STEWART A., PEARMAN D.A. & PRESTON C.D. 1994. Scarce plants of Britain. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough, UK.

  • TUTIN T.G., BURGES N.A., CHA TER A.O., EDMONDSON J.R., HEYWOOD V.H., MOORE D.M., VAL - ENTINE D.H., WAL TERS S.M. & WEBB D.A. 1993. Flora Europaea. Volume 1. Psilotaceae to Platanaceae. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Acta Palaeobotanica

The Journal of W. Szafer Institute of Botany of Polish Academy of Sciences

Journal Information

CiteScore 2016: 1.17

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.524
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.513


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 29 29 24
PDF Downloads 5 5 4