The Smithsonian Natural History Museum was the venue where Nathan Jud, a PhD student made a remarkable discovery. He was busy studying ancient plant fossils when one of them piqued his curiosity. It looked for all purposes like a fern.
However, the more he removed debris from the sample, the more parts of the plant surfaced. When he finally got a closer look, to his surprise, it was not a fern but a flowering plant. It had veins in its leaves along with buds shaped like glandular teeth. It turned out to be an ancient flowering plant that was unlike any found in today’s world. And it was more than a hundred million years old.
The Early Cretaceous Period was the time when this flowering plant bloomed. While today we have plenty of flowering plants, in ancient geological times there were mostly mosses, algae and ferns. They ruled the olden forests. And while flowering plants have seeds, the latter have spores instead. This extremely old sample, discovered by Jud, was recognized due to its pollen type as well as the other fossils trapped in the rock in which it was embedded.
It happens to be a eudicot and resembled the poppy flowers of modern day and time. Its name derives from a variety of sources tied to the origins and discovery of this specimen. Called the Potomacapnos apeleutheron or “Freedman’s Poppy of the Potomac”, it is an exciting and curious find that will go down in the annals of natural history.