This was the title of a free U3A lecture held at the University of East London in Stratford on 3rd July
Two members of our science group went and found it very interesting. The lecture theatre was large, new and air-conditioned – a blessing on a very hot day! The lecturer was dynamic, and passionate about his subject. He brought bunches of flowers into the lecture theatre and handed them around for us to examine. He managed to pitch his talk at a level which addressed all 50-odd of his audience by beginning with very simple basic school botany, and going on to talk about quite advanced genetics
Land plants first evolved about 400 million years ago, but it took another 275 million years before the first flowers appeared. And, of course, they didn’t just appear out of nowhere. They began as slightly modified leaves, but were so successful that they gradually evolved into the sepals, petals, stamens and stigma that we see in flowers today.
The evolution of many of them has gone step by step with the evolution of the insects which pollinate them.
Nowadays plant breeders have gone beyond natural evolution and many of the flowers in our gardens are sterile mutants. Think of carnations, paeonies, or indeed anything with “double” flowers. Their reproductive parts have been changed back into petals to please the human eye.
Dr. Ingrouille finished by urging us all to go back into our gardens, to pick the flowers and to pull them apart to reveal their awesome secrets!