Nixon, K. C. and W. L. Crepet. 1993. Late Cretaceous fossil flowers of ericalean affinity. American Journal of Botany 80 (6): 616-623.

Abstract: Fossilized flowers of ericalean affinity are reported from the Turonian (ca. 90 MYBP, million years before present) of New Jersey. The fossils are remarkably well preserved and three-dimensional, and are the oldest known floral remains of Ericales. The series of fossil flower buds, floral fragments, and fruits are not identical to any modern genus of Ericales. The inverted U-shaped anthers with pseudoterminal awns, and the fluted syncarpous ovary of the fossils suggests affinities with basal Ericaceae, probably near extant Enkianthus, a taxon that also shares monadinous pollen with the fossil. Pollen grains were observed clumped on a stigma in one of the fossil flowers. Fossilized acid-resistant strands having characteristics, including similar diameter and sculpture pattern, in common with the muri connect pollen grains and, with scanning electron microscopy, appear continuous with the tectum, supporting the interpretation that they are viscin threads. These are the oldest reported fossilized viscin threads, and the only fossilized viscin threads found in situ in flowers. In modern Ericales and Onagraceae, the presence of viscin threads is associated with highly specific plant-pollinator relationships, raising the possibility that such specific pollinator-plant relationships had developed by the mid-Cretaceous. This is consistent with floral characters in these ericalean fossils, the presence of advanced meliponine bees in slightly younger sediments from the same region, and with the morphology and affinities of other fossil flowers from the same sediments.


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Paleoenkianthus sayrevillensis
Actual width in ( ) unless otherwise noted.

(height= 1.7 mm)
Closer view of filaments and ovary
(228 µm)
(anther width= 203 µm)

Pollen wall structure
and viscen threads
(7 µm)
Young fruit
(1.25 mm)
Side of fruit
(height= 3.5 mm)
Mature fruit
(4 mm)