17July2018

Fossil Flower

Early flowers.One of the oldest fossil sprigs of a flowering plant has turned up in a Chinese rock formation dating from 122.6 to 125.8 million years ago.

Now named Leefructus mirus, the extinct species had jagged-edged, three-lobed leaves and five-part seed structures much like the modern buttercups and their relatives. That connection would put Leefructus near the base of the eudicots, one of the five major lineages of today’s flowers. Pollen from the fossil record has indicated that eudicots were indeed blooming by this time, but fossils of plants themselves have been rare, an international research team reports in the March 31 Nature.

BEGINNER BUTTERCUP. More than 122 million years old, one of the earliest fossil sprigs of any flowering plant shows features found in today’s buttercup family. Credit: Ge Sun and David Dilcher, reproduced with permission from David Dilcher

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