Did Dinosaurs ever stop to smell the roses?

The weird thing about that question, other than the visual of a giant reptile sniffing at a bush, is that it is the flowers that are the questionable element.

The evidence suggests that some dinosaurs at least had an amazing sense of smell. Studies of Tyrannosaur brain shape show it had a large olfactory bulb, (that’s the bit used for making sense of scents) and more recent genetic studies based on modern birds indicate that therapods like T.Rex would have had a complicated nasal palette.

Flowers are something we’re a lot less sure of. The angiosperm (flowering plant) fossil record is kind of weird. Looking at the fossils it would seem that the earliest flowering plants arose in the Cretaceous period, around the same time as later dinosaurs, and all the major divisions of flowering plant then arose very quickly thereafter. Like Athena from the head of Zeus, they arrived fully formed and ready for war, quickly establishing themselves as the dominant form of plant life, a position they still hold today.

Now that’s quick in geological terms. We’re still talking a couple of million years, but it was fast enough that Charles Darwin called it “an abominable mystery”. fossils of potentially older flowers still attract a lot of debate and discussion.

There is also new genetic evidence that the lineage of flowering plants could date back , all the way back to the late Triassic. The same study separates out the rapid radiations seen in the fossil record as well. Having genetic dating and fossil records disagree with each other isn’t a particularly unusual thing. The gap here is particularly large.

Fossils are incredibly rare, and the population required to create significant numbers of fossils are very large. As a result, fossils tend to post-date the actual arrival of a species, occasionally quite significantly.

Genetic dating is based on a number of difficult to make estimates and assumptions about how long a generation is and rates of mutation. It can be very precise, but it’s hard to claim it’s very accurate.

What is interesting though is that the genetic date apparently coincides pretty closely with the evolution of a number of important insect families. Specifically Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and Hymenoptera (Wasps and Bees). These insect families are major pollinators for angiosperms. It’s not evidence that the early angiosperms were pollinated by these insects, at all, but co-existence is a fundamental first prerequisite towards cooperation.

Whenever the actual origination of angiosperms occurred though, we can safely say that the later dinosaurs such as T.Rex and Triceratops would have been able to sniff at the flowers, as both methods of estimating floral evolution claim eudicots were established at that time. Poor Diplodocus though is right in the middle, and may have missed out on the beauty of blooms.


Here at the beginning

In this post I’m going to focus on gardening and show you where I’m starting from.

I’ve lived in my current home, and with my current garden, for almost a year now. The house itself is about 20 years old. The “main” garden consists of a fairly mature, quite mossy, lawn. There is a collection of ornamental trees down the back and beech hedges on both sides that are badly in need of a trim.


If you look closely at the image above you may be able to see a small hole in the back wall, with an un-hung gate. That hole I knocked myself, with my fathers help. It gives access to the “back” garden. A plot of land included with the house that was left as a field by the original owner, for reasons I am not privy to. I suspect they may have kept an animal back there at one point, but if they did it was many years before I came along.


For an unknown number of years, the back garden was left wild. It is a mess of high density grass, reeds. I’ve removed a thick ditch of wild brambles that was growing on that side of the garden wall, and a few large patches of nettles.


I’ve also put in a small raised bed and planted a few dwarf fruit trees, but the majority of the space is still wild. It’s a fairly substantial parcel of land which could comfortably accommodate a number of different uses without feeling crowded. Which is just what I want.

The fruit trees have taken very well. Here’s an apple that is developing on my cox orange pippin. I’m surprised it’s fruiting at all. The trees are all very young and were only planted last February. We recently had an unseasonable cold spell that did a lot of damage to trees throughout the area, but aside from a small amount of leaf discoloration the fruit trees made it through just fine.


The most recent addition to the back garden is my shed. It is a 10′ x 8′ treated timber shed. It actually only arrived this week, I’d show you the inside but it’s completely empty! I am looking forward to converting it into my base of operations for the various projects I take on.


This is the point at which I am starting from. The general long term plan is that the main garden will be where I put ornamental and pretty plants. The back garden being for fruit and vegetable beds, though I may at some stage incorporate a bit of a wildflower meadow as well.

I reckon that will keep me busy for a couple of years to come and I’m looking forward to the journey!

Who I am and Why I am here

I am Pat. I am here because I have a garden. I am very new to having a garden, but I have had a strong interest in growing things for as long as I can remember. I am very excited to have a garden. I am also a science nerd. I have a PhD in plant genetics. Although I no longer work in academia, I am still interested in what is happening in the scientific world.

In this blog I will combine these passions with my love of writing. I hope that having a blog will motivate me to maintain a consistent level of effort in my garden, and in keeping up with popular science. And maybe it’ll help me find a few people who share my somewhat odd collection of interests too.

I’m looking forward to the journey. And if you find yourself here, why not say hello?