Why are flowers a biological mystery?

Prof. Richard Buggs

We could not exist without flowering plants, but to this date researchers cannot explain where they came from. Why did Darwin describe the origin of flowering plants as an “abominable mystery”?

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Charles Darwin was convinced that the evolution of complexity must proceed by tiny steps. Only tiny steps could be accumulated by natural selection. The process had to go slowly for it to work. Billions of years were needed. But Darwin was aware that this theory had a problem: flowers.

Flowering plants appear so suddenly in the fossil record, in such diversity, that their origin seems to be at odds with Darwin’s theory. When writing a letter to his friend Joseph Hooker in 1879, Darwin famously described this problem as an “abominable mystery”. To this date, evolutionary biologists still have not been able to solve this mystery.

Richard Buggs, Professor of Evolutionary Genomics at Queen Mary University of London, will join us at The Garden to reveal how the problem changed over time and why we still haven’t managed to solve it.

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30 minutes


Fascinating Flowers

About the Fellow

Prof. Richard Buggs

Richard is interested in the mechanisms of evolution and his lab works on genomic aspects of the evolution and conservation of plants, especially trees.

Thank you notes from Garden members

Fascinating Flowers Collection

Flowers are all around us in the world but why do we love them so much?