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The largest flower sunk in amber. It’s over 30 million years old, now what species it is has been discovered

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Growing over 30 million years ago, the flower in the Baltic forest is the largest flower embedded in amber. It was first described 150 years ago. As scientists from the Natural History Museum in Berlin and the University of Vienna have just established, it does not belong to the tea family, as previously thought. This was determined due to the fact that the moment of release of pollen from the stamens was preserved in the fossil.

The fossil comes from the world’s largest amber deposit in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea coast and was first described 150 years ago. It is currently located at the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources in Berlin. This plant, with a diameter of almost three centimeters, is the largest known flower embedded in amber (flower inclusion). Typically, the size of such specimens does not exceed one centimeter. It is between 34 and 38 million years old.

“It’s very special to find such a large flower in amber”

During the research published on January 12 in the scientific journal “Scientific Reports” by scientists from the Natural History Museum in Berlin and the University of Vienna, it turned out that the plant was incorrectly classified as stewardia (Stewart L.), which belongs to the tea family.

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Thanks to the use of an electron microscope, researchers Dr. Eva-Maria Sadowski from the Natural History Museum in Berlin and Dr. Christa-Charlotte Hofmann from the University of Vienna discovered that the process of releasing numerous pollen grains from the stamens of a flower has been preserved in amber. “It’s very unique to find such a large flower with stamens in amber at the perfect moment – when they are open to release pollen” – said Sadowski.

The pollen was carefully scraped out of the inclusions with a scalpel, and then its grains were examined under an electron microscope. “Only very high magnification allows us to see the morphological details of pollen grains that are only a few micrometers in size,” added Hofmann.

The largest flower sunk in amber Bernstein (c) Carola Radke

Not from the tea family, but from the heather family

The characteristics of the pollen studied allowed this fossil to be assigned to an Asian species Symplocos, which includes trees and shrubs of the heath family, occurring in the tropical and subtropical zone. This is the first fossil record of this species embedded in Baltic amber.

As indicated, the area of ​​the Baltic amber forest, existing millions of years ago, was overgrown by a number of other plant species, whose modern “relatives” are found only in East and South-East Asia.

The largest flower sunk in amberBernstein (c) Carola Radke

“Helps gain deeper insight into forests throughout Earth’s history”

“Our new discoveries regarding this unusual and beautiful floral inclusion add additional pieces to the puzzle that allow us to decipher the flora of the Baltic amber forest and understand the climate of the past” – said Sadowski. She added, “This new knowledge helps us gain deeper insights into forests throughout Earth’s history and understand how they evolved through time and space.”

The results of the research have been described.

PAP, Natural History Museum in Berlin

Main photo source: Bernstein (c) Carola Radke

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