Palynologic and petrographic intervals in the upper Pennsylvanian McLeansboro Group, Western Kentucky

James C. Hower, Charles T. Helfrich, David A. Williams

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9 Scopus citations


The McLeansboro Group (formerly the Sturgis Formation) in the Western Kentucky coal field spans the upper Desmoinesian (Westphalian D) and the Missourian and Virgilian series (Stephanian). Extensive drilling has demonstrated the lateral continuity of major and minor beds in the group, making it possible to study vertical and lateral changes in palynology and petrology. Significant features of the McLeansboro Group are the marine zones over most of the coals and paleochannels, which are the only disruptions to the continuity of other lithologies. The Desmoinesian Baker (No. 13) and Wheatcroft (No. 13a) coal beds were included in the study but the primary emphasis is on the Missourian and Virgilian coals. Patoka Formation (lower Missourian) coals are dominated by tree fern spores with lesser amounts of sphenopsids, ferns and cordaites spores. This is in marked contrast to the arborescent lycopod-dominated Desmoinesian coals. Only the No. 15 coal bed exceeds 80% vitrinite: the vitrinite content of the No. 16 coal bed is less than 72%, the lowest of any Western Kentucky humic coal. The Bond Formation (upper Missourian) represents a distinct floristic interval, with a greater diversity of plant groups than in the Patoka Formation. Herbaceous lycopod spores, which are relatively minor contributors to the Patoka coals, are common in the Bond Formation. The coals generally exceed 80% vitrinite. The Mattoon Formation (Virgillian) coals have a variety of palynomorph assemblages. The low-sulfur Geiger Lake coal bed is dominated by tree fern spores, with important contributions from other ferns and sphenopsids. Similar to the underlying tree fern interval, vitrinite contents are less than 80%. The uppermost Mattoon coals are dominated by tree ferns and are notable in being the only coals more than 1 m thick in the Stephanian portion of the section, with the top coal being 4.3 m thick. The uppermost coals generally contain more than 80% vitrinite. The Permian Mauzy Formation overlies the McLeansboro Group. The palynologic/petrographic intervals appear to represent fluctuating dry (low vitrinite) and wet intervals within the Stephanian, which was itself drier than the Westphalian D.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-132
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Coal Geology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jul 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Fuel Technology
  • Geology
  • Economic Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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