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College of Arts & Sciences

Elizabeth J. Hermsen

Elizabeth Hermsen with calico flower

Assistant Professor

Environmental & Plant Biology
Porter Hall 401

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Ph.D., Cornell University, 2005


  • Paleobotany, plant structure, and plant systematics

Fossils provide information about the evolution of entirely extinct groups of organisms and extinct members of modern groups, as well as clues to the biology of ancient species and to the nature of past environments. I research the biodiversity and evolution of vascular plants, primarily through study and analysis of their fossil record. My research focuses on documenting ancient biodiversity (i.e., describing new fossil species), comparing the structure of fossil plant species to the structure of modern plants, placing ancient plants in phylogenetic context (i.e., trying to figure out where ancient plants belong on the plant tree of life), and exploring the development of the biogeographic distributions of plant groups from the perspective of the fossil record.

Current and Recent Research Projects:

  • Documenting the fossil diversity and evolution of water ferns.
  • Collaborating on systematic studies of Cretaceous and Paleogene floras of Patagonia.
  • Exploring the systematics of an Appalachian Neogene flora.

Faculty Research Focus Area: Systematics & Evolution


  • PBIO 1030 Plants and People
  • PBIO 1150 Plant Structure and Development
  • PBIO 3080/5080 Structural Botany/Anatomy and Morphology of Vascular Plants

Selected Publications

Hermsen, E.J., and M.A. Gandolfo. 2016. Fruits of Juglandaceae from the Eocene of South America. Systematic Botany 41: 316-328.

Ksepka, D.T., J.F. Parham, J.F. Allman, M.J. Benton, M.T. Carrano, K.A. Cranston, P.C.J. Donoghue, J.J. Head, E.J. Hermsen, R.B. Irmis, W.G. Joyce, M. Kohli, K.D. Lamm, D. Leehr, J.L. Patané, P.D. Polly, M.J. Phillips, N.A. Smith, N.D. Smith, M. Van Tuinen, J.L. Ware, and R.C.M. Warnock. 2015. The Fossil Calibration Database—a new resource for divergence dating. Systematic Biology 64: 853-859.

Hendricks, J.R., E.E. Saupe, C.E. Myers, E.J. Hermsen, and W.D. Allmon. 2014. The generification of the fossil record. Paleobiology 40: 511-528.

Hermsen, E.J., M.A. Gandolfo, and N.R. Cúneo. 2014. New marsileaceous fossils from the Late Cretaceous of South America and a reevaluation of Marsileaceaephyllum. Plant Systematics and Evolution 300: 369-386.

Cúneo, N.R., E.J. Hermsen, and M.A. Gandolfo. 2013. Regnellidium (Salviniales, Marsileaceae) macrofossils and associated spores from the Late Cretaceous of South America. International Journal of Plant Sciences 174: 340-349.

Hermsen, E.J. 2013. A review of the fossil record of the genus Itea (Iteaceae, Saxifragales) with comments on its historical biogeography. Botanical Review 79: 1-47.

Hermsen, E.J., M.A. Gandolfo, and M.C. Zamaloa. 2012. The fossil record of Eucalyptus in Patagonia. American Journal of Botany 99: 1356-1374.

Gandolfo, M.A., E J. Hermsen, M.C. Zamaloa, K.C. Nixon, C.C. González, P. Wilf, N.R. Cúneo, and K.R. Johnson. 2011. Oldest known Eucalyptus macrofossils are from South America. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21084. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021084

Hermsen, E.J., E.L. Taylor, and T.N. Taylor. 2009. Morphology and ecology of the Antarcticycas plant. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 153: 108-123.

Hermsen, E.J., and J.R. Hendricks. 2008. W(h)ither fossils? Studying morphological character evolution in the age of molecular sequences. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 95: 72-100.

Hermsen, E.J., K.C. Nixon, and W.L. Crepet. 2006. The impact of extinct taxa on understanding the early evolution of angiosperm clades: an example incorporating fossil reproductive structures of Saxifragales. Plant Systematics and Evolution 260: 141-169.

Hermsen, E.J., T.N. Taylor, E.L. Taylor, and D.Wm. Stevenson. 2006. Cataphylls of the Middle Triassic cycad Antarcticycas schopfii and new insights into cycad evolution. American Journal of Botany 93: 724-738.

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