Flower trapped in amber for 34 million years ‘extraordinary and beautiful’

The largest flower fossil known to be preserved in amber, thought to be at least 34 million years old, has been described by scientists as “extraordinary and beautiful”.

About 3 cm wide, the flower is about three times the size of other preserved flowers.

It originally comes from an evergreen plant called Stewartia Kowalewskii and was discovered in the Baltic forests of northern Europe.

Experts say their work, published in the journal Scientific Reports, provides valuable insight into the evolution of forests, as well as past life and climate.

Dr Eva-Maria Sadowski, from the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin and lead author of the study, said: “Our new findings on this extraordinary and beautiful flower inclusion are additional puzzle pieces that allow us to decipher the flora of the Baltic amber forest. To understand the climate of the past.

“This new information helps us gain deeper insights into the forests of Earth’s history and understand their evolution in time and space.”

The Baltic region is home to the largest known amber deposit called Baltic amber, which was produced during the Eocene epoch between 56 and 33.9 million years ago.

These forests are estimated to produce over 100,000 tons of amber.

Dr Sadowski of the University of Vienna and her colleague Christa-Charlotte Hofmann re-examined the flower, which was first described and named in 1872.

They believe it was surrounded by amber between 38 and 34 million years ago.

Trapped inside the amber allowed the flower to act like a time capsule – its leaves, stem and pollen are preserved in detail.

Amber-covered pollen grains are released by the stamen, the flower’s male reproductive organ.

Dr Sadowski said: “It is very exceptional to find such a large flower in amber, the stamens in the stamens that are perfectly open to release their pollen while the flower is held by the resin.”

Fossil flower from Baltic amber

Amber-covered pollen grains released by the flower’s male reproductive organ, the stamen (Carola Radke/Museum fur Naturkunde/PA)

The authors extracted pollen from the sample and examined it under an electron microscope.

The analysis shows that the flower is closely related to an Asian plant class known as Symplocos.

Based on this, the researchers proposed a new name for the flower – Symplocos Kowalewskii, in contrast to Stewartia, a genus belonging to the tea family.

They said this is the first fossil record of a Symplocos plant in Baltic amber.

But they added that there is evidence that the forest is home to a large number of plant species that have modern relatives in East and Southeast Asia.

This is because the climate was warmer in Europe at the time and precipitation was more common, allowing members of the beech family such as the chinkapin and conifers such as the Japanese cedar to flourish.

Together they form a diverse ecosystem of coastal marshes, swamps and mixed forests, the researchers said.

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