A study published in the journal Nature Plants reports that scientists have identified the first ever fossilized specimen of asterids, a family of flowering plants believed to be the ancestors of everything from potato to tomato, petunias to coffee, mint to basil, tobacco, etc. The 20–30 million–year–old fossilized flowers were found perfectly preserved in a piece of amber preserved in the Dominican Republic.
Researchers from the Oregon State University and Rutgers University concluded that these flowers come from the dark side of the asterid family and belong to the genus Strychnos, which is the reason behind some of the world’s most famous poisons. The fossilized flowers were found to be in a perfect state that once grew in a steamy tropical forest with both large and small trees, climbing vines, grasses and other vegetation.
According to the researchers, asterids are among the earth’s most important plants with 10 orders, 98 families and about 80,000 species. The fossilized remains were discovered roughly 30 years ago in the Dominican Republic.