It seems impossible now to imagine a world without flowers. 130 million years ago it would have taken
an extraordinary feat of imagination to dream of even one - there were none. They suddenly exploded
into being with such speed and impact we now call it the Great Radiation. Within a few minutes of
Earth’s historical day all the building blocks of the lifeblood of modern ecosystems and the font of
untold inspiration appeared and prospered.
How were they able to so radically change the world they lived in so quickly and completely? Partly
their ability to work within and around the established environment, partly their unique design that stood
out in a uniform world and partly because the incentives they offered were perfect for their partners in
The ecosystems of 100 million years ago were filled with giant plants that dominated their surroundings
and monopolised the resources their competitors needed to grow to challenge them. Flowers didn’t
compete head on with these titans, they exploited the gaps and the margins, growing faster, dying at
their peak and evolving more rapidly than their competitors. They exploited the small resources in a way
that the giants could not – they were smarter and more agile – and worked around and between them to
establish their first foothold.
They had a foothold, what held them back was reproduction. They were as hopelessly inefficient and
ineffective as their giant neighbours, relying on wind-blown chance. They needed to enlist the help of
the billions who would dedicate their ways of life to their mutual success – the pollinators who could go
from flower to hundreds of flowers. But how could these pollinators find their future in the jungle of
relentless green. The first brilliant petals shone out like a beacon call to action and the great radiation
Why were the pollinators so willing to help the flowers and so desperate to find them? Flowers had a
reward that offered them a lifestyle rich in energy, sustainable and that tasted fantastic - nectar. Flowers
gave, got and flourished.
Some of the giants still exist, some still prosper and new flowering giants have emerged from the fields
of colour. The age of flowers brought new partnerships, new fuel and a new power into our world - 19
out of every 20 plant species are now flowering plants - a truly beautiful revolution.
* * *
Mother Nature – our sustainability teacher with a track record of 3.8 billion years in design perfection.
Available free to every leader of sustainable design worldwide.