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Rooted to the spot, plants are the most implausible of sexual organisms. Yet the overwhelming majority of them are exactly that; only dandelions, along with a handful of other species, cock a snook at sex. The rest found a way, the most spectacular being the exquisite beauty of flowering plants, which swept through the world some 80 million years ago, turning the dull green forest into the magical painted glades we know today. Although they first evolved in the late Jurassic, perhaps 160 million years ago, their global takeover was long delayed, and ulti­mately tied to the rise of insect pollinators like bees.

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