Cretaceous Terrestrial Ecology:

(Sims, 1994)

Angiosperms (flowering plants) first appeared in the Early Cretaceous and subsequently underwent a significant evolutionary diversification in the Late Cretaceous. However, they remained subordinate plants with respect to the overall plant community.

Conifers were the predominant large trees of the Cretaceous landscape, the most common being a relatively primitive group, the araucarian pines. Also dominant in the Cretaceous forest were the dawn redwood (Metasequoia) and bald cypress (Taxodium), as well as gingkoes. In addition, there were small hardwood angiosperm trees, but for the most part, these did not exceed 10cm in diameter and 5m in height (Dodson, 1996).

Ferns were prominent in the Cretaceous, but probably as undergrowth plants rather than forest trees. Tree ferns and seed ferns formed a forest middle story. Grasses had not yet evolved, but mosses, fungi, and scouring rushes were well represented (Lemon, 1993).

The cycads (gymnosperms) reached their climax at this time. They had short, stubby trunks, rather like a pineapple in appearance, and a crown of palm-like leaves (Lemon, 1993).

(Carnegie Museum, 1997)

Pine cones from a Cretaceous conifer.
(Zallinger, 1942-47)
The small angiosperm, Araliopsoides is a shrubby forerunner of our modern sycamore or plane tree. Araliopsoides belonged to a great radiation of related plants that made up an important part of the vegetation at middle and high northern latitudes of the earth during the Late Cretaceous. With few exceptions such as the witch hazel, the sweetgum,and the palm tree, most of these angiosperms have left no descendants in the modern world.
(Carnegie Museum, 1997)

A fossil cycad leaf. A short stubby-trunked gymnosperm that reached its climax during the Cretaceous. It was rather like a pineapple in appearance, and had a crown of palm-like leaves.

(Zallinger, 1942-47)
Cretaceous members of the Magnolia Family grew in warm climates where there was little if any seasonal change. Consequently, they would have had evergreen leaves and scattered flowers that appeared over a prolonged interval. Magnolias are another example of a Cretaceous angiosperm that thrived alongside the Ceratopsids.