Lower Cretaceous Angiosperm Flowers: Fossil Evidence on Early Radiation of Dicotyledons

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Science  16 May 1986:
Vol. 232, Issue 4752, pp. 852-854
DOI: 10.1126/science.232.4752.852


Three-dimensionally preserved unisexual angiosperm flowers and inflorescences have been recovered from the Lower Cretaceous Patapsco Formation (Potomac Group) of eastern North America, in sediments palynologically dated as late Albian, approximately 100 million years old. In situ tricolpate pollen shows that the flowers were produced by some of the earliest higher (nonmagnoliid) dicotyledons, and the morphology of pollen, flowers, and inflorescences indicates a close relation to extant Platanaceae. Combined with architectural and cuticular features of associated leaves these floral remains suggest that Platanus-like plants with unisexual, probably insect-pollinated flowers were an important element in the mid-Cretaceous diversification of dicotyledonous flowering plants.