5 facts about what's possibly the world's first flower

2015-08-19 09:17
Montsechia vidalii (IU Bloomington website)

Montsechia vidalii (IU Bloomington website)

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Johannesburg - David Dilcher, a paleobotanist from Indiana University in the United States, and his colleagues in Europe have identified a 125 million to 130 million-year-old freshwater plant as one of earliest flowering plants on Earth.

This ancient aquatic plant, called the Montsechia vidalii, has overtaken the Archaefructus sinensis, an aquatic plant found in China, as one of the possible first flowers on the planet. 

"A 'first flower' is technically a myth, like the 'first human,'" Dilcher said according to a statement from the university. 

"But based on this new analysis, we know now that Montsechia is contemporaneous, if not more ancient, than Archaefructus."

Here are five facts about this "first flower": 

1. It once grew abundantly in the freshwater lakes in what are now mountainous regions in Spain.

Fossils of this plant were first discovered more than 100 years ago in limestone deposits of the Iberian Range in central Spain and in the Montsec Range of the Pyrenees, near the country’s border with France.

2. This flowering plant is as old as some dinosaurs.

The age of the plant is placed in what is called the Barremian age of the early Cretaceous period. Which means it was here a really long time ago, or if you want to be specific, it was around at the same at time as the brachiosaurus, which is the dinosaur with the long neck.

3. The plant looked like a pond-weed

"Montsechia possesses no obvious 'flower parts,' such as petals or nectar-producing structures for attracting insects, and lives out its entire life cycle under water," Dilcher said. "[However] the fruit [from the plant] contains a single seed" - the defining characteristic of a flowering plant.

4. It looked like a plant that people currently use to decorate koi ponds and aquariums.

Dilcher said that in terms of appearance the plant resembles a modern plant called Ceratophyllum, which is also known as coontails or hornworts (those are real names). Ceratophyllum is a dark green aquatic plant whose leaves make it a popular decoration in modern aquariums and koi ponds.

5.  The findings are based on looking at over 1 000 fossils.

The plants' stems and leaf structures were "coaxed from stone" by applying hydrochloric acid "drop-by-drop". 

Read more on:    china  |  plants  |  research  |  palaeontology  |  marine life

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