Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Is It Truly a 'Flower'? A Closer Look May Prove Otherwise

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Is It Truly a 'Flower'? A Closer Look May Prove Otherwise

Article excerpt


PART of the training horticulturists receive involves dipping their big toes into the vast and almost bottomless subject of plant science, or botany. It's a fair bet that most will become fascinated, if not obsessed, by the intricacies of how plants work, including all the important parts of a plant, starting with roots, and progressing through stems, trunks, leaves, and finishing with flowers, fruit and seeds.

The word "flower" is a common term usually applied to the reproductive parts of a plant, and most gardeners may recall the basic school science class where they discovered that flowers usually had male parts (stamens for pollen production) and female parts (pistils for seed production).

Needless to say, delving a little deeper into plant reproduction reveals that "flower" is quite a loose term used to describe most plants' reproductive organs, even though that description can be quite wrong.

1. Here's a classic true flower - the Asiatic lily. This close-up reveals the parts of a "perfect" flower, starting with brightly coloured petals surrounding six stamens (male bits), their anthers covered in brown pollen. The creamy central stigma is supported by a cylindrical style, connected to an hidden ovary at the base of the flower (female bits).

2. Often described as a "flower", this is the inflorescence (a term used to describe a cluster or grouping of flowers on a stem) of the taro plant. In the same family as the arum and peace lillies, the "flower" is actually comprised of a spadix (which holds female only flowers at its base, and develops male only flowers towards its tip), surrounded by a colourful modified leaf called a spathe. Visible are the male flowers, the female blooms hidden in the sheath at the base of the spadix.

3. Similar to the taro plant, the Begonia bears separate male and female flowers on the same plant. These are the flowers of my wonderful Begonia "Angel Wing", which blooms pretty well all year round. On the right is the male flower bearing pollen-producing anthers, to the left is the female flower with its intriguingly-shaped spiral pistils. …

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