Cecilanthus polymerus, a novel multiparted flower from the mid-cretaceous rocky point locality, Maryland

Patrick S. Herendeen*, James A. Doyle, Peter K. Endress, Masamichi Takahashi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


A flower from the early Cenomanian of northeastern Maryland, Cecilanthus polymerus gen. et sp. nov., is described using SEM and synchrotron X-ray microtomography. The flower has >20 strap-shaped tepals, ca. 50 spatulate stamens with embedded adaxial pollen sacs and possibly H-valvate dehiscence, and ca. 100 more-or-less plicate carpels. Floral phyllotaxis is whorled, with >10 parts per whorl, but slightly irregular. Pollen and ovules are not preserved, but locule shape suggests that the carpels are uniovulate. Similar characters occur in extant Magnoliales and the basal ANITA grade, but never in combination. In an attempt to resolve these ambiguities, we performed morphological phylogenetic analyses, with the arrangement of extant taxa constrained to trees based primarily on molecular data. With anther dehiscence and ovule number treated as unknown, Cecilanthus has several most-parsimonious positions: nested in Nymphaeales, nested in Magnoliales, sister to Laurales, and sister to Chloranthaceae. However, scoring anther dehiscence as H-valvate and ovule number as = 1, increases support for a position in Magnoliales. Cecilanthus demonstrates that the early radiation of angiosperms produced floral morphotypes unlike those in any surviving taxa, and it illustrates the value of characters such as pollen morphology and seed anatomy for phylogenetic placement of floral mesofossils.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)787-803
Number of pages17
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 15 2016


  • Angiosperm
  • Cretaceous
  • Fossil flowers
  • Paleobotany
  • Phylogeny
  • Potomac group

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science

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