Introduction to flowering plants

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Flowering plants, known technically as angiosperms, are the most diverse group of land plants, with 300,000 known species worldwide. They evolved in the Cretaceous, some 100 million years ago, following on from the ferns and gymnosperms (such as coniferous trees). They evolved and diversified alongside the bees and other pollinating insects, and 80% of plant species rely on insects to transfer pollen from male to female plant parts. Insects in turn rely on the nectar and pollen that plants produce as food for themselves and their young. This mutual dependence was the basis for the diversification and evolutionary success of both.

Plants are subdivided into families sharing common characteristics, the largest among the flowering plants being the daisy family (aka composites), the carrot family (umbellifers) and the pea family (legumes). Others include the orchid family, the buttercup family, the rose family and the mint family (labiates).

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