science: flowering plants

metro, oregon, outdoor
Archaefructus, one of the first fossils of flowering plants.

Archaefructus, one of the first fossils of flowering plants.

An obvious yet profound thought has occurred to me while musing over this springs glorious flowers: there was a time on earth when flowering plants didn’t exist. One of the first flowering plants known is Archaefractus, of the Yixian Formation in China. It appears in the fossil record around 125 million years ago, in the Early Cretaceous. Around this period, scientist note distinct characteristics starting to appearing in plants setting them apart from earlier gymnosperms (first occurring 245-202 million years ago). The characteristics include endosperm within the seed (in contrast to gymnosperms’ swimming sperm), fruiting, and flowering. This collection of unique characteristics in plants is now referred to as Angiosperm. Perhaps most profound is that flowering plants survived the K-T extinction event, 65 million years ago, that killed 90% of dinosaurs (leaving the remaining 10% to evolve into birds). Looking at the delicate petals, stamen, and stem of each colorful and fragrant seasonal treasure blooming around Bend, I’m moved to appreciate the journey each seed had made to bloom for yet another Spring.

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