The flowering plants (angiosperms), also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies (derived characteristics). These characteristics include flowers, endosperm within the seeds, and the production of fruits that contain the seeds.

The ancestors of flowering plants diverged from gymnosperms around 245202 million years ago, and the first flowering plants known to exist are from 140 million years ago. They diversified enormously during the Lower Cretaceous and became widespread around 100 million years ago, but replaced conifers as the dominant trees only around 60-100 million years ago.

  There are eight groups of living angiosperms:

  • Amborella a single species of shrub from New Caledonia
  • Nymphaeales about 80 species water lilies and Hydatellaceae
  • Austrobaileyales about 100 species of woody plants from various parts of the world
  • Chloranthales several dozen species of aromatic plants with toothed leaves
  • Magnoliidae about 9,000 species, characterized by trimerous flowers, pollen with one pore, and usually branching-veined leaves for example magnolias, bay laurel, and black pepper
  • Monocotyledonae about 70,000 species, characterized by trimerous flowers, a single cotyledon, pollen with one pore, and usually parallel-veined leaves for example grasses, orchids, and palms
  • Ceratophyllum about 6 species of aquatic plants, perhaps most familiar as aquarium plants
  • Eudicotyledonae about 175,000 species, characterized by 4- or 5- merous flowers, pollen with three pores, and usually branching-veined leaves for example sunflowers, petunia, buttercup, apples and oaks





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Last updated August 2009