Whether you enjoy them in a garden or a bouquet, flowers spread joy, gratitude, and romance around the world (not to mention plenty of delicious fruit and veggies!). But what gives them such a diverse and beautiful appearance? Understanding flower anatomy can give us a clue into why flowers dazzle our world in color!
Not all plants have flowers. In fact, most groups of vascular plants don’t, using cones to bear seeds or reproducing with spores. By geological time, flowers are new to the plant world. They only showed up around 145 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period. Once they bloomed, however, the world committed to florals. Perhaps due to their smaller genomes and greater photosynthetic capacity, angiosperms took over the plant world. Today, over 350,000 species of angiosperms blossom around the world.
As a whole, the flower is the reproductive structure of a plant. However, flower anatomy divides into two categories: the vegetative parts and the reproductive parts. The vegetative part of the flower provides the basic structure of the flower and the aesthetic appeal that attracts pollinators. In contrast, the reproductive parts include the organs involved in reproduction.
The vegetative parts of a flower are really what give flowers their hype. Endless varieties of colors, shapes, and smells create a seemingly infinite bouquet of flower types. Below are the vegetative elements of a flower including the supportive peduncle and pedicel as well as the decorative petals and protective sepals.
Ever stop and smell the roses? Flower scents come from oils found inside the petals of a flower! Some flowers have just a handful of compounds that make up their specific scent, though some orchids have developed a complex cocktail of over 100 different chemicals!
While the structure of specific flowers varies, all flowers have the same general parts including the stamen, anther, and pistils. When a bloom has both the male and female parts, it is considered a perfect flower, like a rose or tulip. On the other hand, an imperfect flower only has one or the other. There are both male and female squash blossoms, for example. The female squash flower only has a pistil while the male flower has a pollen-covered anther.
Surrounding the pistil of a perfect flower are the stamens. The number of stamens varies among the flower species. Lilies, for example, may just have a few stamens while some cactus flowers have dozens. The stamen is the male part of the flower and has two parts: the filament and the anther.
Located in the center of the flower stands the pistil. Coincidentally, the pistil’s shape is reminiscent of a flower vase with a bulbous bottom, slim neck, and notable lip. Each of these different parts has its own function in the process of fertilization. Together, the stigma, style, and ovary make up the female part of the flower.
Knowing the names and purposes of specific flower parts is delightful in itself, but learning flower anatomy has further value. When learning to identify specific flowering plants, you will find that keys and guidebooks are swimming in terminology. Now that you are a flower anatomy expert, you won’t be deterred!