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World's Oldest Flower Found in China

Archaefructus
The leaf-like structures on the stem are pods containing the seeds, a characteristic unique to flowering plants. The new fossil is 25 million years older than the previous oldest-known flower.(University of Florida)

World's Oldest Fossil Flower.

November 27, 1998

The fossil of what appears to be the oldest known flower was discovered in a unit of layered limestone and volcanic ash in China, about 250 miles northeast of Beijing. The beds were deposited in a lake, where volcanic ash fell periodically. Dated at 142 million years (Early Cretaceous), this find predates previously known fossil flowers by about 12 million years.

The fossil flower is on a plant fossils about 3 inches long. It is associated with fruiting bodies shaped like pea pods, which contains seeds.

Flowering plants (or angiosperms) first appeared during the Cretaceous Period. Without flowers, there would be no fruits, vegetables, wheat, rice, or other grains. All common plant food sources today come from flowering plants.



Map of China
The fossil of the world’s oldest known flower was uncovered near the town of Beipiao in China’s Liaoning province. (ABCNEWS.com)

Flowers are important because they attract insects which serve to pollinate the plants so that fruits and and grains can develop. During the Cretaceous, flowering plants and insects evolved together symbiotically.

Chinese and U.S. scientists have identified what is believed to be the world's oldest flowering plant. The 140 million year old fossil was found last year in northeastern China. Sun Ge, a researcher with the Academia Sinica in Nanjing, China, and UF researcher David Dilcher worked together earlier this year to identify the specimen, which predates the previous oldestknown flower by 25 million years. (Photo courtesy of David Dilcher) 

Previously, the oldest-known flower was a 115-million-year-old specimen found in Australia about nine years ago. Although Canadian researchers date the Yixian formation at about 120 million years old, Dilcher said Chinese researchers used radiometric dating to place the age of Sun's and his plant at between 142 million and 148 million years old.

Not that the difference is worth quibbling over. "Either way," Dilcher said, "this is still the oldest flowering plant."

 

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