changed everything. The angiosperms, as botanists call the plants
that form flowers and encased seeds, appeared during the Cretaceous
period, and they spread over the Earth with stunning rapidity.
"An abominable mystery" is how Charles Darwin described
this sudden and entirely evitable event. Now, instead of relaying on
wind or water to move genes around, a plant could enlist the help of
an animal by striking a grand coevolutionary compact: nutrition in
exchange for transportation. With the advent of the flower, whole
new levels of complexity come into the world: more interdependence,
more information, more communication, more experimentation.
evolution of plants proceeded according to a new motive force:
attraction between different species. Now natural selection favored
blooms that could rivet the attention of pollinators, fruits that
appealed to foragers. The desires of other creatures became
paramount in the evolution of plants, for the simple reason that the
plants that succeeded at gratifying those desires wound up with more
offsprings. Beauty had emerged as a survival strategy.
new rules speeded the rate of evolutionary change. Bigger, brighter,
sweeter, more fragrant: all these qualities were quickly rewarded
under the new regime.
Pollan: The Botany of Desire, Random house, New York, 2002.