Coffee (and pepper) of the dinosaurs discovered.

Discovery News hypes the headline a little here (but forgivably) by declaring that a 45-million-year-old prehistoric coffee has been discovered preserved in amber:

Named Strychnos electri, after the Greek word for amber (electron), the flowers represent the first-ever fossils of an asterid, which is a family of flowering plants that not only later gave us coffee, but also sunflowers, peppers, potatoes, mint — and deadly poisons.

The flowers, described in the journal Nature Plants, belong to the dark side of the family. They are in the genus Strychnos, which ultimately gave rise to some of the world’s most famous poisons, including strychnine and curare. The prehistoric flowers’ attractiveness and incredible state of preservation belie their toxicity.

“The specimens are beautiful, perfectly preserved fossil flowers, which at one point in time were borne by plants that lived in a steamy tropical forest with both large and small trees, climbing vines, palms, grasses and other vegetation,” said Oregon State professor George Poinar, Jr….

Poinar and his team recently made the discovery while analyzing amber that had been collected in the Dominican Republic in 1986.

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