The Denver Museum of Nature & Science paleobotany collections support ongoing research, exhibits, and outreach focused on the fossil plants of the Rocky Mountain region

Plants are the basis of all terrestrial ecosystems and have been so since they first colonized land more than 400 million years ago. The paleobotany collections at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science are composed of fossilized plant remains spanning the history of plant life on land. The collection is focused on the Rocky Mountain and Great Plains regions, arguably the most prolific fossil plant-producing regions in the world. The collection is one of the four largest and best curated collections from this region of Late Cretaceous and Paleogene age. Fossil plant specimens include compression and impression fossils on stone matrix, petrified trunks and stems, palynological slides, and bulk samples and residues.

Fossil plants are abundant in Colorado. We hold more than 30,000 specimens from Late Cretaceous, Early Paleocene, and Early Eocene strata from the state collected at over 600 salvage sites and natural outcrops since 1991. This collection includes the 64 Ma Castle Rock Rainforest, which numbers nearly 10,000 specimens and represents the oldest known tropical rainforest, and the West Bijou collection, a suite of about 5,000 specimens that tells the story of forest recovery following the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Staff

Ian Miller, PhD

Director of Earth and Space Sciences, Associate Curator of Paleobotany

Kristen A. MacKenzie, MS

Earth Sciences Collections Manager

Nicole Neu-Yagle, MS

Earth Sciences Assistant Collections Manager

Libby Couch

Business Support Specialist

Frequently Asked Questions

Fossil plants are abundant in Colorado! Think you found something cool?  Email us!  We might be able to help you figure out what they are, and if they are scientifically important and you are willing to donate them, we might add them to the Museum's collection!

Petrified wood is a very common plant fossil. In fact, you can find it up and down the Front Range in Colorado. If you would like us to take a look, take a picture and email us!

Yes, you can, but there are rules depending on the ownership of the land that you plan to collect on. Please look up the rules for collecting fossil plants for the specific land you might visit. Remember, too, to always ask for permission if you plan to visit private land.

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