The chronostratigraphical subdivision of the Pliocene and Early Pleistocene as applied in terrestrial deposits of Central and NW-Europe largely relies on the pollen analytical investigations. This subdivision is almost entirely based on the interpretation of quantitative changes of the vegetational cover as recorded by the pollen content of fluvial deposits in the Lower Rhine Embayment. The Early and Middle Pliocene stages are originally defined in the type areas near Susteren and Brunssum along the southern border of the roer valley graben (RVG). Late Pliocene and Early Pleistocene stages have been defined in the Venlo-Tegelen area on the Peel Block, just north of the RVG. A critical review of existing data has been carried out considering lithostratigraphical data, provenance studies and palaeogeography in comparison especially with the interpretation of palynological results. As a result, it is concluded that the existing subdivision of the Pliocene into stages and substages defined by pollen assemblages has not been executed correctly. As a consequence, the application of this subdivision in geological reconstructions and modelling reveals many problems and pitfalls. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA.