, Volume 192, Issue 1-2, pp 79-97

Floral structure and evolution of primitive angiosperms: Recent advances

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Abstract

Concepts of primitive angiosperm flowers have changed in recent years due to new studies on relic archaic groups, new paleobotanical finds and the addition of molecular biological techniques to the study of angiosperm systematics and evolution.Magnoliidae are still the hot group, but emphasis is now on small primitive flowers with few organs and also on the great lability of organ number. Of the extant groups, a potential basal position of the paleoherbs has been discussed by some authors. Although some paleoherbs have a simple gynoecium with a single orthotropous ovule, anatropous ovules may still be seen as plesiomorphic in angiosperms. Anatropy is not necessarily a consequence of the advent of closed carpels. It may also exhibit biological advantages under other circumstances as is the case in podocarps among gymnosperms. Valvate anthers have now been found in most larger subgroups of theMagnoliidae (recently also in paleoherbs) and in some Cretaceous fossils. Nevertheless, as seen from its systematic distribution, valvate dehiscence is not necessarily plesiomorphic for the angiosperms, but may be a facultative by-product of the thick connectives and comparatively undifferentiated anther shape inMagnoliidae and lowerHamamelididae. A perianth is relatively simple in extantMagnoliidae or even wanting in some families. In groups with naked flowers the perianth may have been easily lost because integration in the floral architecture was less pronounced than in more advanced angiosperm groups. Problems with the comparison of paleoherb flowers with those ofGnetales are discussed. The rapid growth of information from paleobotany and molecular systematics requires an especially open attitude towards the evaluation of various hypotheses on early flower evolution in the coming years.