By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Describe the main parts of a flower and their purpose
- Detail the life cycle of an angiosperm
- Discuss the two main groups into which flower plants are divided, as well as explain how basal angiosperms differ from others
From their humble and still obscure beginning during the early Jurassic period (202–145.5 MYA), the angiosperms, or flowering plants, have successfully evolved to dominate most terrestrial ecosystems. Angiosperms include a staggering number of genera and species; with more than 260,000 species, the division is second only to insects in terms of diversification (Figure 14.24).
Angiosperm success is a result of two novel structures that ensure reproductive success: flowers and fruit. Flowers allowed plants to form cooperative evolutionary relationships with animals, in particular insects, to disperse their pollen to female gametophytes in a highly targeted way. Fruit protect the developing embryo and serve as an agent of dispersal. Different structures on fruit reflect the dispersal strategies that help with the spreading of seeds.