The palaeontological information summarised in earlier chapters provides direct historical evidence of the pattern of angiosperm evolution through time. Such information is an important complement to contemporary approaches that use data from living plants to look back into evolutionary history. At the same time, living plants are the essential points of reference for any meaningful interpretation of the palaeontological record. Only from studies of the modern world can we understand the lives of plants and the roles they play in ecological systems. For these reasons the emphasis in this book has been on the integration of information from living and fossil plants, which we see as vital for a full understanding of plant evolution.
In this chapter we provide a brief integrated overview of the major patterns of angiosperm evolution as revealed by studies of living plants and the fossil record. We also provide more detailed consideration of selected groups of angiosperms with a particularly interesting or informative palaeontological history. Finally, we conclude with a brief consideration of angiosperm evolution through the Cenozoic to make the temporal connection between our primary focus on the Cretaceous fossil record, and the diversity of angiosperms that exists today.