Climate warming at the Palaeocene/Eocene boundary (c. 55.8 Ma) had significant permanent affects on paratropical and warm-adapted vegetation types. Pollen and spore records which document vegetation turnover from the eastern US Gulf Coast have all been taken from sediments of marginal marine depositional environments. Pollen and spores (sporomorphs) are preserved excellently in these marginal marine depositional environments but these assemblages contain grains transported from many different vegetation types and over huge geographic distances. Currently it is unclear whether the turnover from important paratropical areas like the US Gulf Coast is a reflection on actual vegetation change in the local region or from source areas far away in the continental interior. Sporomorph data from 20 former swamps (lignites) from the Nanafalia, Tuscahoma and Hatchetigbee formations in Mississippi and Alabama, USA, are used to test the fidelity of the marine sporomorph record across the Palaeocene–Eocene transition. Data show that extinction is noted in the swamp record (?7 per cent of Palaeocene taxa) and that swamps were susceptible to immigration in the Early Eocene with the first occurrences of Brosipollis spp. (Burseraceae), Dicolpopollis spp. (Palmae), Nuxpollenites psilatus (Loranthaceae) and Platycarya spp. (Juglandaceae). Swamps have higher within-sample diversity in the Eocene but higher among-sample diversity in latest Palaeocene–earliest Eocene samples, which parallels exactly diversity trends estimated from marine sporomorph assemblages. Palms also increase in abundance in the Eocene. The swamp data demonstrate that the flora growing in these ancient paratropical forests was diverse (c. 120 taxonomic groups) but incorporated an unusual admixture of plants with modern tropical affinities together with those that now live in modern temperate to subtropical North America.