North America’s Oldest Giant Flowering Tree is a Huge Fossil

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In what is now central Utah, almost 92 million years ago there was a ghastly storm which managed to blow over a huge flowering tree. The tree made its way down a river and eventually, it found itself into an ancient delta. Part of the tree’s trunk began to be buried by sediments, which in time mineralized. That’s how we are now dealing with a fossil that’s able of breaking records.

On Wednesday there was a new study published in Science Advances in which the researchers present the oldest proof of huge flowering trees in North America. This fossil is one that breaks any record, represented by a petrified log which has a length of almost 36 feet and a width of six feet.

According to the study’s authors, the three could have stood 170 feet tall in life with no problems, which would make it twice as tall as the tallest tree currently living in Utah. This fossilized tree trunk probably belongs to Paraphyllanthoxylon, which is a really old genus which we only know from other fossils. This tree, however, has lived and died with almost 15 million years before the next oldest fossils of large flowering trees in North America.

The experts from outside believe that there is nothing really surprising about the existence of such a tree. Angiosperms, or flowering plants, came to life almost 135 million years ago. Just 35 million years later, the smaller plants dominated some lowlands, and by almost 75 million years ago, there is clear proof of massive flowering trees. That means that almost 90 million years ago, flowering plants started to reach for the sky.

Nan Crystal Arens is a paleobotanist at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and she said that “It’s not necessarily surprising, because we know that there’s a rich angiosperm flora at that time”.

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