The rare flower finally gets its moment in the sun, almost 100 million years after it bloomed.
Researchers from Oregon State University have identified a new species of angiosperm or flowering plant from the Cretaceous period that has been preserved in an amber fragment found in present-day Myanmar.
Named Valviloculus pleristaminis, it belongs to the laurel family and is related to the black sassafram hearts found in Australia.
Myanmar and Australia share more than 4,000 miles of ocean, but at the time this flower was wrapped in resin, they were part of a supercontinent known as Gondwanaland.
The discovery of V. pleristaminis suggests that the continental plate on which it was located was separated from Gondwanaland much later than previously theorized.
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OSU researchers have discovered Valviloculus pleristaminis, a new species and genus, trapped in amber from 100 million years ago. The tiny male flower has dozens of anthers arranged in a spiral with pollen-producing heads pointing toward the sky.
‘This isn’t exactly a Christmas flower, but it’s a beauty, especially considering it was part of a forest that existed almost 100 million years ago,’ said George Poinar Jr., a paleontologist with the Department of Integrative Biology at OSU.
‘The male flower is tiny, about 2 millimeters in diameter, but has about 50 anthers arranged like a spiral, with anthers pointing towards the sky.’
The stamen is the part of the male flower that produces pollen, while the anther is the head that produces pollen.
‘Even though they’re so small, the details that still remain are amazing,’ said Poinar, author of a report on the discovery in the journal of the Texas Botanical Research Institute.
The flower bloomed on the ancient supercontinent of Gondwanaland and was wrapped in amber, Poinar theory, before embarking on a continental plate ride known as the Western Burmese Bloc, as it slowly moved 4,000 miles away.
OSU paleontologist George Poinar Jr. picks up a piece of amber. The work of a world-renowned expert on the analysis of plants and animals found in prehistoric matter inspired Michael Crichton to write Jura Park.
He and his colleagues from OSU and the Ministry of Agriculture named the flower – which is both a new genus and species – Valviloculus pleristaminis.
Valva is the Latin term for a leaf on a folding door, loculus means “compartment,” plerus refers to “many,” and staminis reflects dozens of male sexual organs on a flower.
The specimen was probably part of a cluster on a plant with similar flowers, Poinar added, “some perhaps female”.
WHAT IS ZUTAR?
Amber has been used in jewelry for thousands of years and often contains extremely well-preserved materials from ancient times.
A transparent substance of golden color is formed when the resin of extinct coniferous trees hardens and fossils.
Insects, plants, pollen and other materials were trapped in the resin, which is why they were buried for millions of years.
In addition to its beauty, the fossilized flower is also noteworthy for its travel: It bloomed on the ancient supercontinent of Gondwanaland and was wrapped in amber before embarking on a ride on a continental plate known as the Western Burmese block.
That plate moved slowly from Australia to Southeast Asia, traveling 4,000 miles.
Discussions are underway as to when the West Burmese bloc seceded from Gondwanaland, which eventually split into Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, the Indian subcontinent, and the Arabian Peninsula.
Some geologists set the date 500 million years ago, while others theorize that it was closer to 200 million years ago.
But, according to Poinar, angiosperms developed and diversified only about 100 million years ago.
This means that the West Burmese bloc could not have been interrupted before, “which is much later than the dates proposed.”
Poinar is a world-renowned expert on the analysis of plants and animals found in amber – his work inspired Michael Crichton to write Jura Park.
In 2013, Poinar discovered a piece of amber with the oldest evidence of sexual reproduction in a flowering plant, a cluster of 18 tiny Cretaceous flowers.
The time of freezing includes microscopic tubes that grow from pollen grains and penetrate the stigma, part of the female reproductive system of the flower.