The applicability of p-coumaric acid and ferulic acid concentrations or ratios in (sub)fossil plant remnant as UV-B proxies relies on various aspects, which are discussed in this paper and will be illustrated with some experimental data. A newly developed THM-micropyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry method was tested on various spores, pollen and other plant remains, which were analysed for the presence of the UV-absorbing compounds p-coumaric acid and ferulic acid. This revealed that these supposed building-blocks of sporopollenin appear to be present in pollen of many plant species but also in moss spores. The development of this micropyrolysis method paved the way for the quantitative analysis of UV-absorbing compounds in case only a small amount of analyte is available, for example for fossil pollen and spores but also other small palynomorphs and plant fossils. The use of this technique will provide a better insight in the plant responses to UV-radiation, the chemistry of pollen and spores, their fossil counterparts and furthermore the means for a further development of a proxy for the reconstruction of past UV-B radiation. © Springer 2006.