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Largest Flower Ever Discovered, Preserved in Amber for Over 33 Million Years

The sticky tree resin known as amber, which hardens and preserves whatever it encases, provides a glimpse into the past. It may be artistic at times. The size and elegance of a flower preserved in Baltic amber are stunning. Two scientists with a shared interest in botany and amber went back to the flower they once misidentified 150 years ago and got it right this time.

Eva-Maria Sadowski, a postdoctoral researcher at Germany’s Museum für Naturkunde, and Christa-Charlotte Hofmann, an associate professor at Austria’s University of Vienna, reexamined the blossom to better comprehend its role in the plant kingdom. A research by them was out last Thursday in the publication Scientific Reports.

The diameter of the blossom is around 0.43 inches (11 millimetres). Though seemingly little, when compared to the old amber-encased blooms, it is a behemoth. Between 33 to 38 million years ago, something happened. Researchers noted that “flower inclusions may be uncommon and often do not surpass 10 mm in size.”

Amber Preserves a Mold Pig, a Hairy Snail, and Other Neat Creatures

The specimen has been around for a while. In 1872, it was assumed to have originated from the stewartia kowalewskii, an evergreen. Pollen was taken from the dried bloom using a scalpel and compared to pollen from other species. The group determined the initial label was wrong. A new genus and species name, symplocos kowalewskii, have been given to the flower. The genus Symplocos has several evergreen shrubs and trees. The amber specimen is closely linked to a species native to Asia.

Insightful information may be gleaned from even a single flower by scientific researchers. To thrive, modern symplocos plants need the high humidity found in mountain forests. When this flower was preserved in amber, it was probably in a similar environment to the one we have now, millions of years ago. The researchers concluded that “this corresponds with the most recent assessments of the Baltic amber source region, the so-called Baltic amber forest,” where circumstances of high humidity and mild temperatures likely prevailed.

The flower joins other gorgeous and scientifically significant amber discovery, such as a snail perfectly preserved in its shell from 100 million years ago. The beauty of an amber discovery is subjective. Cockroach sperm that has been preserved in rock is one such example. Yet, the symplocos kowalewskii will always be there for you to study in detail, allowing you to conjure up images of the environment it formerly inhabited.