The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra la, have been here a very long time.

Recent scientific research has found a genetic path that leads from today's gardens and food plants back to the age of dinosaurs, when the sudden profusion and variety of flowering plants in the fossil record struck Charles Darwin, the father of evolution theory, as an "abominable mystery."

The 350,000 different species of flowering plants - angiosperms - in today's world are descended from plants that thrived 160 million to 130 million years ago during the Mesozoic Era.

However, only a single known flowering shrub - Amborella trichopoda - growing under the remote tropical rainforests of New Caledonia is known to directly survive that earlier efflorescence.

Three recent articles in Science magazine detail the findings of the Amborella Project, an ambitious effort to decode the entire genome of this plant.

The main article notes, "As the only extant member of an ancient lineage, Amborella provides a unique window into the earliest events in angiosperm evolution.

"Identifying genomic changes that accompanied the origin of angiosperms is key to unraveling the molecular basis of biological innovations that contributed to their geologically near-instantaneous rise to ecological dominance."

The research has found clues to how this sudden rise, Charles Darwin's "mystery," happened in genetic evidence that plants absorbed whole genomes from other plants as they evolved into different organisms.

The applications of this path-breaking research could lead to improvements in food crops and even contribute to reducing global warming, since flowering plants capture vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.

"Say it with flowers" could take on a whole new meaning.