Re: Coal and theYEC position

Bill Payne (
Tue, 21 Apr 1998 21:47:29 -0600

17 Apr 1998 10:32:51 -0500, Glenn Morton wrote:

> So, while you may be correct that a given coal or a given area has coals
> predominantley associated with bark or wood, it is not necessary that the
> coal came from wood unless there is preserved wood in the coal.
> Unfortunately most coals show no microscopic structure.<<<<<

Cheer up, my friend. I remembered today that coal balls do preserve
microscopic structure. Although coal is compressed 5 to 10 times (I
think) its original organic thickness, the coal balls, found within coal
seams, undergo very little compression, which means that the microscopic
structure is preserved. From, we read:

"Coal balls are PERMINERALIZATIONS, which are formed when plant tissues
are infiltrated by soluble silicates and carbonates and other soluble
mineral compounds. The mineral compounds are then precipitated onto the
plant tissues to form a rock matrix, which constitutes the fossil.

Coal ball peels are made by cutting a coal ball into sections,
dissolving away some of the rock from the cut surface of the coal ball
section, coating the cut surface with acetone, placing an acetate sheet
onto the cut surface and letting it dry. When the acetate is removed,
any organic material will stick to the acetate. The cellulose walls of
plant cells are very well preserved in coal balls, and allow for the
great detail found in coal ball peels."

Also, on bedding plane splits in Alabama coal, I have occasionally
noticed the characteristic diamond-shaped pattern of leaf cushions on
the outer surface of lycopod tree trunks. I think between the
macroscopic and microscopic examination of Carboniferous coals, we will
be able to show that one of the predominant components of vitrain is
woody trunk and bark fragments from *trees*, not grasses. Which leaves
you with the problem of lack of tree trunks preserved in the coals and
roots in the underclays. It's hard to envision a swamp without trees,
yet with tree bark and trunks in the organic deposits from the swamp!

Your swamp model is beginning to mire up, Glenn.