Believe it or not, a huge majority of terrestrial life owes it's existence to flowers. Without flowers, our planet would look drastically different. Flowering plants, or Angiosperms started doing something completely brilliant about 250 million years ago that would forever change the course of history.
Before that period plants with pollen and seeds existed quite well, conifers, cycads, and ferns are prime examples of Gymnophytes from this era. These Gymnophytes typically relied upon the wind or water to transfer their sex cells to other plants who were willing to receive them. This is could be likened to the spray n' pray method. These plants made a TON of pollen, and hoped that some of it would land in just the right places to inseminate some of their possible partners. And most of the time some of it did...but there wasn't a lot of diversity in the world at this time.
Things pretty much looked like this.
But around 250 million years ago
Something changed, and seemingly overnight thousands of new species sprung into being. Terrestrial life that had been predominantly living near the edge of water (think within 100 miles), began exploding deep into the interior of large continents. Not only the amount of new species of plants and animals increased, but the rate of change itself increased by several factors of magnitude.
Change ITSELF grew faster. So what happened?
This is a drop of nectar, by weight it has over fifty times more sugar then coca-cola. This was the key, some plants realized they could give out this turbo-charged biological jetfuel...for free, and in the process of collecting it, these proto-insects would be inadvertently transporting their sex cells. And it worked. In fact it worked so well, that after hundreds of thousands of new species of plants and insects exploded into being from the new landscape, there became a problem. So many new species of plants were now operating in the same way, that after a pollinator visited one of their flowers, the chances of them immediately visiting another plant of the same species wasn't always so good.
The Angiosperms had to adapt, and adapt they did!
The race began to cultivate a relationship with a specific pollinator, so that only one species of animal could extract the reward of the flower, and the flowers' sex dust would make it to the right place. The ways that plants do this varies wildly from place to place, from requiring specially shaped beaks, to displaying visual signals in the ultra-violet spectrum, or releasing pollen on certain vibrational frequencies of an insect's wings.
Remember, this shit evolves over a LONG LONG FUCKING time...we're not talking 1,000 years here, but hundreds of thousands of years. For these flower/pollinator pairs to keep functional, they must be evolving together!!! Just think about that for a moment. You can't have the flower "get ahead" of the pollinator, and yet, ultimately they are both intertwining together in an intimate dance spanning the course of millions of years, and untold generations.
Here, this one is called Orphium Frutescens, it's from South Africa, lives near the coastline. And it wraps it's pollen up in a twisted stamen that only releases on hearing the vibrational note of Middle C.
Pretty Crazy Shit!!!! Watch that shit, I linked to the right moment.
Next time you're walking by a flower, remember that little being was largely responsible for nurturing an ecosystem that was able to support your life, and part of how it does it is by making something incredible and giving it away to the world. In a way, you owe your life to the ancestors of that little plant.
“We live, we die, and like the grass and trees, renew ourselves from the soft clods of the grave. Stones crumble and decay, faiths grow old and they are forgotten but new beliefs are born. The faith of the villages is dust now…but it will grow again….like the trees. May serenity circle on silent wings and catch the whisper of the winds.”
-Chief Joseph, Nez Perce
Thankyou for your support and thoughts! This is the second part of a series called Wild Earth where we will take a look at the crazier side of the natural world. I will continue publishing the Story of Money series as time goes on, also feel free to check out my Exercise Anywhere series for those of you who like to get a workout in unconventional(yet practical!) ways. If you've enjoyed this post, please upvote!
if you liked this post and want to dive in deeper, check out this documentary by Ian Stewart, called the Power of Flowers. It's free and you can stream the full hour long episode.