“We can change our view on the evolution of these plants because we have more information nowadays.
“What happened during and after the Late Cretaceous period is especially interesting for plants because all plant diversity we have today began to evolve from then. It’s a critical time for flower evolution.”
Species in the Ericales order include the kiwifruit, blueberry and Brazil nuts and have considerable commercial importance including for tea.
“They’re a very diverse group and very interesting,” Dr Herting said.
"There is a wide variety within Ericales, from 'typical' flowers like primroses to more extravagant ones like Impatiens (Touch-me-not/snapweed) or Kiwi."
The importance of understanding floral evolution
Dr Herting said angiosperms, or flowering plants, were important because they turned the Sun’s energy into a form which is usable to us and other organisms.
"Bluntly said without plants, there is no us," he said.
"Thus, understanding how the unique feature of flowering plants, the flower, evolved is very relevant in our ever-changing world.
“Studying their evolution gives us the opportunity to see what traits the flower had and how that had an impact on the evolution. We can then determine if this impacted how many species there are today or how these traits evolved and influenced diversity we’ve seen over time.
“The goal is to build in research that has been ongoing for 20 years, apply new methods to it and see if there are novel insights to be had.”
Read more about flowering plants
Researchers have identified the huge impact of flowering plants on the evolution of life on Earth.
Read the research from Dr Sauquet here.