The spread of the earliest flowering plants may have been a result of the high incidence of fires in the distant past, scientists have hypothesised. Angiosperms evolved at the beginning of the Cretaceous Period - 144 million to 65 million years ago - in the form of low shrubs. It was the evolution of flowers that enabled them to speed up their life cycles, outgrow their competitors and eventually take over the ecosystem. According to Andrew Scott, professor of Earth sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, and William Bond, professor of botany at the University of Cape Town, wildfires provided the open conditions necessary for them to reproduce and achieve rapid maturity. Their findings were revealed in a paper published by the journal New Phytologist.