In paper published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society (UK Academy of Science) Professors Friis, Pedersen and Crane describe the remarkably well preserved bud of an ancient flower recovered from fossil deposits from the the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland, USA. The oldest fossil flowers are known from China, Europe, North America and elsewhere and date back to about 120 million years ago, but the new discovery from Maryland is one of the earliest flowers to show the typical five-parted construction in which the five petals are distinctly different from the outer whorl of five protective sepals. A reconstruction of the ancient flower is shown here.
The flower bud is exquisitely well preserved with all floral organs intact and was studied using advanced non-destructive synchrotron radiation X-ray microtomography (SRXTM) at the Tomcat beamline of the Swiss Light Source, Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland. A series of transverse sections through the ancient flower in the form of a movie can be seen here.