Imprimir Republish


A 34-million-year-old flower

Carola Radke / Museum Für Naturkunde BerlinSymplocos kowalewskii, 2.8 centimeters, trapped in amberCarola Radke / Museum Für Naturkunde Berlin

Measuring just 2.8 centimeters in diameter, the largest known flower preserved in amber has been misclassified for 150 years. Stored at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin in Germany, the small five-petaled flower lived between 38 million and 34 million years ago and is about three times larger than previous examples. It was collected in 1872 in a boreal forest region of northern Europe that today belongs to Russia and given the scientific name Stewartia kowalewskii, from the Teaceae family—the same as tea and camellias—comprising trees and shrubs from temperate and tropical regions. During a postdoctoral fellowship at the museum, German paleobotanist Eva-Maria Sadowski studied the flower using modern microscopy techniques. She extracted pollen grains from the amber and sent them to Christa-Charlotte Hofmann at the University of Vienna, Austria, for analysis. The researchers concluded that the largest flower preserved in amber actually belongs to the genus Symplocos, which encompasses trees and shrubs that today grow in tropical and subtropical areas of Asia and the Americas. They renamed the flower Symplocos kowalewskii (Scientific Reports, January 12). The presence of this genus in northern Europe indicates that the climate there was milder in the distant past.