Stomata in Early Cretaceous Angiosperms (fossils)

Cuticle Evolution in Early Cretaceous Angiosperms From the Potomac Group of Virginia and Maryland

by Upchurch G. R. Jr. (1984)

Garland R. Upchurch Jr.

U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, Colorado, USA


In Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 71(2: 522-550 –


Studies of angiosperm leaf cuticles from the Lower Cretaceous Potomac Group reinforce previous evidence for a Cretaceous adaptive radiation of the flowering plants and suggest unsuspected trends in the evolution of stomata and trichomes.

Early Potomac Group angiosperm leaf cuticles (Zone I of Brenner or Aptian?) show little interspecific structural diversity, particularly in stomatal organization. All species conform to the same highly plastic pattern of variation in subsidiary cell arrangement, in which the stomata on a single leaf conform to several types, including paracytic, hemiparacytic, anomocytic, laterocytic, and weakly cyclocytic.

Several species resemble extant Chloranthaceae and Illiciales, but none represents a modern family. Later leaves (Subzone II-B of Brenner, or Albian) exhibit greater interspecific structural diversity, particularly in stomatal organization.

Three new patterns of variation in subsidiary cell arrangement are present in addition to the older one and each has a subset of the variation present in the older pattern. Cuticular anatomy is consistent with proposed leaf affinities to Platanaceae and Rosidae. The stratigraphic trend in cuticle types supports the concept that the subclass Magnoliidae includes the most primitive living angiosperms. However, it also suggests that the uniformly paracytic stomatal pattern characteristic of Magnoliales, generally considered primitive for the flowering plants, may actually be derived from the variable condition found in Zone I leaves.

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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