BEIJING, CHINA, 2009

A cloud of pollen produced by the poplars lining the streets of Beijing

Xinhua

© Xinhua News Agency / Eyevine

 

Springtime with its flowers is lovely, but we need to remember that angiosperms, better known as flowering plants, did not always exist on Earth but appeared in the Jurassic period, i.e., more than 150 million years ago, with initially very small flowers. It wasn’t until the Cretaceous period, about 130 million years ago, that flowers spread and assumed the many different and complex shapes that we are familiar with today.
Although flowering plants are not the only plants to inhabit the land, they are certainly the most numerous and, with almost 400,000 species that include herbs, shrubs, trees, and creepers, they make up more than 80% of all existing plants. In 1879, Charles Darwin called the appearance and extraordinary spread and diversification of angiosperms an “abominable mystery”. Still today, scholars wonder how they came to be. Their success lies in the flower itself, a structure derived from modified leaves of the bud that contains the male and female reproductive organs and encourages rapid fertilisation and rapid formation of the seed necessary for the propagation of the species.
Today, however, human activity is causing animal and plant biodiversity to be lost, with obvious repercussions. The frenzied construction of houses, roads, and cities can lead to the disappearance of the flower-filled meadows that appear in spring. If we want to continue to experience a sense of wonder as we gaze at trees and meadows filled with flowers in the future, we need to learn to respect nature more.

Cristina Boaretto