Water Flower

The extinct flowering plant, Montsechia vidalii, once grew abundantly in freshwater lakes in what are now mountainous regions in Spain. Fossils of the plant (below left) were first discovered more than 100 years ago in the limestone deposits of the Iberian Range in central Spain and in the Montsec Range of the Pyrenees, near the country’s border with France. The fossils are dated as being about 125 million years old and are re-interpreted by the palaeontologist David Dilcher in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

479311_actual  479312_actual

Dilcher has also described another of the earliest flowers as Archaefructus, also an aquatic plant, and found only as fossil in China:220px-Archaefructus_liaoningensis

Montsechia was contemporaneous or more ancient than Archaefructus. It had no petals or  nectar-producing structures for attracting insects, and lived out its entire life cycle under water. The most likely modern equivalent to Montsechia is Ceratophyllum, or hornwort, familiar in modern aquariums and artificial ponds:

Unknown  Ceratophyllum demersum2

In the absence of DNA in the fossils, or any other definitive evidence that can be measured accurately, comparisons of the fossil and this modern species are crude and subjective. It means there is still art as well as science involved in these latest interpretations.