Dr. Brian Axsmith's Research Area

My interest in fossil plants (Paleobotany) is driven by my belief that many of the important questions in vascular plant evolution require paleobotanical answers. My research focus at this time involves fossil plants from the Pliocene (~ 3 million years ago) Citronelle Formation in Mobile and Baldwin counties, Alabama.  Because the Pliocene record in North America is poor and this was a time of extreme global warmth, the local fossils are particularly significant.
Some of the important finds so far include: the earliest post-Eocene record of Carpinus (Ironwood) in North America, as well as leaves and pollen of White Pine, which no longer occurs on the Gulf Coastal Plain. I have also identified the winged nuts of Pterocarya (see picture below), which is a member of the Juglandaceae (Walnut) family, now only found in Asia.

Other research interests include Cretaceous fossil plants from Alabama, and Triassic plants from North America and China. 

Recent Publications

(complete listing at Academia.com)


The Pliocene Citronelle Formation flora of south Alabama; quantitative paleoclimate analysis with new taxa records. Paleontologia Electronica 18.3.47A:1-35. (D.Z. Stults, B.J. Axsmith-2015).

Williamsonia carolinensis sp. nov. and associated Eoginkgoites foliage from the Upper Triassic Pekin Formation, North Carolina: implications for early evolution in the Williamsoniaceae (Bennettitales). International Journal of Plant Sciences 176(2):174-185. (C. Pott, B.J. Axsmith – 2015).

A Triassic seed with an angiosperm-like wind dispersal mechanism. Palaeontology 56:1173-1177 (B.J. Axsmith, N.C. Fraser and T. Corso – 2013).

Whole-plant concept and environmental reconstruction of a Telemachus conifer (Voltziales) from the Triassic of Antarctica.  International Journal of Plant Sciences 174(3):425-444. (B. Bomfleur, A.-L. Decombeix, I. Escapa, A.B. Schewndemann, B.J. Axsmith – 2013).

A new Neocalamites (Sphenophyta) with prickles and attached cones from the Upper Triassic of China. Palaeoworld 21:75-80. (S. Zan, B.J. Axsmith, N.C. Fraser, F.  Liu, D. Xing - 2012).

The conifer Araucaria bladenensis and associated large pollen and ovulate cones from the Upper Cretaceous Ingersoll shale (Eutaw Formation) of Alabama. Cretaceous Research 34:142-148. (D.Z. Stults, B.J. Axsmith, T. Knight, P.S. Bingham - 2012).

Atmospheric paleo-CO2 estimates based on Taxodium distichum (Cupressaceae) fossils from the Miocene and Pliocene of Eastern North America. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 309:327-332. (D.Z. Stults, F. Wagner-Cremer, B.J. Axsmith - 2011).

Filling the gaps in the Neogene plant fossil record of eastern North America: New data from the Pliocene of Alabama. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 167:1-9 (D.Z. Stults, B.J. Axsmith - 2011).

First macrofossil record of Begonia (Begoniaceae). America Journal of Botany 98: 150-153, (D.Z. Stults, B.J. Axsmith - 2011).

Evidence of white pine (Pinus subgenus Strobus) dominance from the Pliocene Northeastern Gulf of Mexico Coastal Plain. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 287: 95-100. (D.Z. Stults, B.J. Axsmith, Y-S. Liu - 2010).

Modifications of the transfer technique for studying complex plant structures. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 159: 62–68. (I. Escapa, B.J. Axsmith, T.N. Taylor, E.L. Taylor – 2010).

First unequivocal record of the hybodont shark egg capsule Palaeoxyris in the Mesozoic of the Western Hemisphere. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie 255: 327-344. (J. Fischer, B.J. Axsmith, S.R. Ash-2010).

A new Cynepteris from the Triassic of Arizona: implications for the early diversification of schizaealean ferns. International Journal of Plant Sciences 170: 657-665. (B.J. Axsmith - 2009).

Betulaceae from the Pliocene and Pleistocene of southwest Alabama. Review of Paleobotany and Palynology 155: 25-31. (D.Z. Stults and B.J. Axsmith - 2009).

An araucarian conifer bract-scale complex from the Lower Jurassic of Massachusetts: implications for estimating phylogenetic/stratigraphic congruence in the Araucariaceae. Paleontologia Electronica 11.313A. (B.J. Axsmith, I. Escapa, P. Huber - 2008).

A new genus of the Cupressaceae (sensu lato) from the Jurassic of Patagonia: implications for conifer megasporangiate cone homologies. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 151:110-122. (I. Escapa, N.R. Cuneo, B.J. Axsmith - 2008).
New evidence for laurasian corystosperms: Umkomasia from the Upper Triassic of northern China. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 149:202-207. (S. Zan, B.J. Axsmith, N.C. Fraser, F. Liu, and D. Xing - 2008).

The “new approach to Corystospermales” and the Antarctic fossil record: a critique. Ameghiniana 44(1):223-230. (B.J. Axsmith, E.L. Taylor and T.N. Taylor- 2007).