Late Bloomers

Article | Updated 10 years ago

Flowering plants, which are so familiar to us today, evolved in the Cretaceous — blooming relatively late in the history of life.

The first fossil evidence of flowering plants, called angiosperms, is from the early Cretaceous about 130 million years ago. By the end of the Cretaceous flowering plants had diversified in an explosion of varieties. They ended the reign of the ancient conifers, cycads and ferns in dominating the landscape. This dramatic change in vegetation was one of the most significant moments in the history of life.

Special relationship

The interaction between flowering plants and the insects that pollinated them appears to have facilitated rapid diversification in both groups. This process is known as coevolution and may account for the amazing variety of flowers and insects we see today.

Magnificent magnolia

The ancestors of magnolias are among the most ancient of flowering plants, with a fossil record from about 100 million years ago. They appeared before the evolution of bees so perhaps their tough flowers evolved to encourage pollination by beetles.

Modern ‘Southern Magnolia’.

Modern ‘Southern Magnolia’.


Did dinosaurs eat grass?

Grasses are a specialised kind of flowering plant that are conspicuous and important in the world today. However they did not evolve until near the end of the Cretaceous, and didn’t begin to dominate until much later. Some fossilised dinosaur dung contains what appear to be grass structures. So perhaps some of the very last dinosaurs may have had the opportunity to dine on grass.

Modern wild grass field.

Modern wild grass field.