Leguminosae are one of the most diverse flowering-plant groups today, but the evolutionary history of the family remains obscure because of the scarce early fossil record, particularly from lowland tropics. Here, we report ∼500 compression or impression specimens with distinctive legume features collected from the Cerrejón and Bogotá Formations, Middle to Late Paleocene of Colombia. The specimens were segregated into eight fruit and six leaf morphotypes. Two bipinnate leaf morphotypes are confidently placed in the Caesalpinioideae and are the earliest record of this subfamily. Two of the fruit morphotypes are placed in the Detarioideae and Dialioideae. All other fruit and leaf morphotypes show similarities with more than one subfamily or their affinities remain uncertain. The abundant fossil fruits and leaves described here show that Leguminosae was the most important component of the earliest rainforests in northern South America c. 60–58 million years ago.
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Vol. 32 • No. 5-6