Lowstand deposits from the basal Bashi Formation at the Red Hot Truck Stop
locality date to the first ~1.6 million years of the Eocene and may lie within
the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. From two sites we collected and analyzed
113 fossil leaf specimens, which included 18 discrete morphological groups (morphotypes).
Despite generally poor preservation, we recognize the following botanical
entities as well as 10 undiagnosed morphotypes: Lygodium kaulfussi
(a climbing fern), Lauraceae (laurel family), Monocots, Myrtaceae (guava
family), Fabaceae (legumes), Platycarya (a member of the walnut family,
Juglandaceae, currently endemic to East Asia), Rhus, a sumac or
sumac relative (Anacardiaceae), and a new genus and species of Ochnaceae
(ochna family); all are consistent with tropical to subtropical climates.
Additionally, we recognize two cuticle morphotypes suggestive of monocots and
liverworts, respectively. Platycarya is an Eocene index taxon here
represented for the first time as a macrofossil in the eastern USA. The new
Ochnaceae, Rhabdophyllites diapyros, apparently is the only leaf record
of this major extant pantropical group. Most of the groups found in the Red Hot
leaf flora are also found in western North America during the earliest Eocene,
showing that they were widespread in North America at this time. The Red Hot
flora indicates the potential to rebuild the stratigraphic context of the
classic paleobotanical record of the U.S. Gulf Coast, leading to improved
understanding of plant migration and evolution during the Early Cenozoic.