The opportunity to travel to exotic destinations like China, Madagascar, Crete and the Swiss Alps on a professional flower holiday can reveal a host of very different floral species. Whether it's standing in the middle of a meadow of wildflowers or tulips, or searching for rare and exotic endemics far off the beaten track, for the keen amateur botanist it can make for a very memorable experience. |
For those considering a flower holiday, understanding the basics of flower anatomy can greatly help in the identification of particular species.
The Parts of a Flower
Petal: The most visible parts of a flower are the petals, which come in myriad shapes and sizes and are often vividly coloured. This beautiful display is not merely for our viewing pleasure and is designed to catch the attention of birds and insects, which play a vital role in their pollination.
Peduncle: The official term for the stalk or stem. It can refer to that which supports either a single bloom or an 'inflorescence', which is the complete head.
Sepal: Small, green and usually leaf-like, the sepals grow from the base of the petals to protect the bud as it develops and blooms. The collective term is the calyx.
Receptacle: Also called the torus, the receptacle is the part of the stalk at the base of the flower, from which its reproductive organs develop.
The Male and Female Organs
Flowers are angiosperms, which means they reproduce sexually (by pollen fertilizing an ovule) in order to form seeds.
"Perfect" floral species are hermaphroditic - possessing both gender organs - and can carry out the reproductive process on their own. This is known as self-pollination. Examples of perfect flowers include dandelions, lilies and roses.
"Imperfect" floral species (the most common) have either just female or just male organs and need a separate flower of the opposite gender in order to reproduce. This is known as cross-pollination.
Pistil: The pistil is the female organ where the pollen germinates and comprises four parts.
Stamen: The male organ comprises two parts and the number of stamen generally corresponds to the number of petals.
- Stigma – the sticky head, which receives the pollen for fertilization.
- Style – the stalk supporting the stigma, which grows a protective tube for the pollen to transport it to the ovary.
- Ovary – the base of the pistil, which stores ovules awaiting fertilization.
- Ovules – these are the 'eggs' of the flower, which, when fertilized by pollen, form into a viable seed.
Methods of Pollination
- Anther – the head that produces pollen, which then needs to be transported to the pistil (via insects or animals) in order to fertilize it for the reproductive process to begin.
- Filament – the slender stalk that supports the anther and anchors it to the flower.
Flowering plants pollinate by one of two methods.
Anemophilous plants rely on the wind to transfer pollen to reproduce. Because they have no need to attract insects or other animals to move the pollen, their blooms tend not to be as colourful or ostentatious.
Entomophilous plants have evolved to attract insects, bats and other animals to transfer pollen. Not only are they usually vibrantly coloured, their shape has also evolved to ensure pollen has the optimal chance of being transferred to the host carrier.
Consider a Professional Flower Holiday
Accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, a professionally organised, small group flower holiday is an excellent way to explore a new destination and encounter its unique flora and wildlife in a very personal and fulfilling way.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in wildflowers. As a passionate lover of botany, Marissa chooses the expert-led flower holiday itineraries organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable encounters with a wide range of plant species in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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