Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Musings of a Plant Nerd

Anatomy of a Flower Head

Do you know the difference between "a flower" and "a flower head"? I didn't, until just a few years ago when I got serious about photography again and began documenting Louisiana wildflowers.

What looks like "a flower" and is often called "a flower," is instead a "flower head." What look like "petals" on the flower, in this example, the big yellow blades, are in fact "ray flowers," each with its own stamen, which you can see in this photo.

What looks like the center of a flower is actually a cluster of "disk flowers," again each with its own stamen. Or is that a pistil? Or...?

Here's where it gets complicated and my knowledge runs out! Stamens, pistils, filaments, styles, and on and on. Botanists have a name for every part and surface. And most of them have to do with reproduction. Welcome to the sexy world of wildflowers!

By the way, this Rosinweed (Silphium gracile) is particularly good for showing off anatomy due to its large size. And the glorious stand of over-my-head plants covered with flower heads in all stages of development that yielded this shot on a hot day in July flourished in the #KisatchieNationalForest along a gravel forest access road in the vicinity of Dry Prong in central Louisiana.

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