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Ignoble origin for flowering plants.

From orchids to oak trees, the angiosperms -- also known as flowering plants -- currently reign over more ancient divisions of the plant kingdom. Paleobotanists have traditionally thought that angiosperms had a noble origin, having evolved from an ancestral type of tree related to the magnolia. Recently, though, some workers have suggested a much seedier beginning, theorizing that the ancestral angiosperms were small, weed-like herbs that grew in less desirable environments not preferred by the more established forms of vegetation. New evidence from a fossil site near Richmond, Va., supports the lowly origin hypothesis, report Leo J. Hickey of Yale University and David W. Taylor of Indiana University Southeast in New Albany.

At a place called Dutch Gap, the researchers found early angiosperms in silty layers deposited along the margins of ancient river channels -- an environment that would have been unstable because of frequent flooding. Paleobotanists have spent years searching for the earliest angiosperm ancestors, but those efforts have failed because researchers have kept the wrong image in mind, say Hickey and Taylor. Instead of looking for large, woody plants, paleobotanists should search for small, weedy vegetation living along riverbanks.
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Title Annotation:angiosperms found in ancient plant remains
Author:Monastersky, Richard
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jul 18, 1992
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