Which Flower Has Been Around the Longest?

It's not exactly chicken-and-egg territory, but if you've ever wondered which came first, the bee or the flower, we have your answer. All you have to do is marvel at the magnificent magnolia.

Magnolias have been around for so long that they rely on beetles for pollination, as bees haven't existed for as long.
Magnolias have been around for so long that they rely on beetles for pollination, as bees haven't existed for as long.

That fragrant flower has been around for so long that it has always counted on beetles for pollination because bees didn't exist when it first appeared. Beetles are the original pollinators, beginning hundreds of millions of years ago, and while their importance has diminished somewhat with the arrival of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, they are still responsible for the continuing existence of most of the world's 240,000 flowering plants. Technically speaking, the process of pollination by beetles is known as cantharophily. It began 150 million years ago and was the only form of pollination until bees came along about 50 million years later.

As for the magnolia, the delicate flower isn't so delicate. Because beetles are considerably rougher pollinators than bees, magnolias had to develop very strong carpels, which make up the pistil, the female reproductive part of a flower.

More on magnolias:

  • The magnolia was named after Pierre Magnol, a 17th-century French botanist.

  • Magnolia tree species range in height from 15 feet (4.5 m) to 80 feet (25 m).

  • The magnolia is both the state tree and state flower of Mississippi.

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    • Magnolias have been around for so long that they rely on beetles for pollination, as bees haven't existed for as long.
      Magnolias have been around for so long that they rely on beetles for pollination, as bees haven't existed for as long.