Scientists Discover Fossil of Oldest Known Flower

Posted on August 18, 2015

Montsechia vidalii ancient flowering plant fossil

Scientists have discovered the fossil of the oldest known flower. The fossil is of Montsechia vidalii, an aquatic plant that once grew abundantly in freshwater lakes in ancient Spain. The fossil is 125 million to 130 million years old. The flowering plant would have been a living at the same time as dinosaurs such as the brachiosaurus and iguanodon.

The fossilized plant was identified by Indiana University paleobotanist David Dilcher and colleagues in Europe. A photograph of the large intact fossil specimen is above. Illustrations of the Montsechia plant based on the findings are pictured below.

Dilcher says in a statement, "This discovery raises significant questions about the early evolutionary history of flowering plants, as well as the role of these plants in the evolution of other plant and animal life."

Montsechia vidalii ancient flowering plant drawings

The discovery indicates Montsechia is older than Archaefructus sinensis, an aquatic plant found in China that was previously proposed as the oldest flower.

Dilcher says, "A 'first flower' is technically a myth, like the 'first human.' But based on this new analysis, we know now that Montsechia is contemporaneous, if not more ancient, than Archaefructus."

A research paper on the discovery can be found here in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Photo: David Dilcher
Drawings: Oscar Sanisidro