Flowering Plants


Other Characteristics of Flowering Plants

Although flowers and their components are the major innovations of angiosperms, they are not the only ones. Angiosperms also have more efficient vascular tissues. Additionally, in many flowering plants the ovaries ripen into fruits. Fruits are often brightly colored, so animals are likely to see and eat them and disperse their seeds (see Figure below).

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Brightly colored fruits attract animals that may disperse their seeds. It’s hard to miss the bright red apples on these trees.

Evolution of Flowering Plants

Flowering plants are thought to have evolved at least 200 million years ago from gymnosperms like Gnetae. The earliest known fossils of flowering plants are about 125 million years old. The fossil flowers have male and female reproductive organs but no petals or sepals.

Scientists think that the earliest flowers attracted insects and other animals, which spread pollen from flower to flower. This greatly increased the efficiency of fertilization over wind-spread pollen, which might or might not actually land on another flower. To take better advantage of this “animal labor,” plants evolved traits such as brightly colored petals to attract pollinators. In exchange for pollination, flowers gave the pollinators nectar.

Giving free nectar to any animal that happened to come along was not an efficient use of resources. Much of the pollen might be carried to flowers of different species and therefore wasted. As a result, many plants evolved ways to “hide” their nectar from all but very specific pollinators, which would be more likely to visit only flowers of the same species. For their part, animal pollinators co-evolved traits that allowed them to get to the hidden nectar. Two examples of this type of co-evolution are shown in Figure below.

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The hummingbird has a long narrow bill to reach nectar at the bottom of the tube-shaped flowers. The bat is active at night, so bright white, night-blooming flowers attract it. In each case, the flowering plant and its pollinator co-evolved to become better suited for their roles in the symchathamtownfc.nettic relationship.

Some of the most recent angiosperms to evolve are grasses. Humans started domesticating grasses such as wheat about 10,000 years ago. Why grasses? They have many large, edible seeds that contain a lot of nutritious stored food. They are also relatively easy to harvest. Since then, humans have helped shaped the evolution of grasses, as illustrated by the example in Figure below. Grasses supply most of the food consumed by people worldwide. What other grass seeds do you eat?

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