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Flowers and Reproduction

Flowers are the reproductive structures of flowering plants. Once the pollen has been transferred from one flower to another flower, fertilization takes place. The female parts of the fertilized flower then develop into fruits and seeds which are dispersed away from the parent plant. Later, when conditions are suitable, these seeds may germinate and grow into plants bearing flowers. In this way the cycle is continued.

Facts iconJohnny's Fact File No.30
The tallest flowering plant is the eucalyptus which can reach 132m in height.
The smallest flowering plant is the
duckweed which floats on the surface of pond water. It is 0,5mm long.

Many plants produce flowers. When the flowers are young (in bud) some are protected by leaf-like structures called sepals. As the flower develops it opens and the sepals fold back or fall off, showing the petals. Some plants have colourful and sweet-smelling flowers, while others have flowers which are small, have no scent and are not easy to see.

Drawing: Labelled diagram of a LS scetion through a typical flower. © Shirley Burchill

Flowers are the reproductive structures of plants. Most flowers are hermaphrodite, this means that they have both male and female parts. The male parts are called stamens and it is in the anthers of the stamens that the pollen is made. The female parts of the flower are called carpels and it is in the carpels that the eggs (ovules) are made. The main problem for the plant is how to get the pollen, which contains the male sex cell, to the carpel of another flower. The brightly coloured flowers use certain types of animals to transfer their pollen. Some flowers depend on the wind to take the pollen from one flower to another flower. These flowers are less conspicuous (less easy to see).

Facts icon Johnny's Fact File No.31
The largest flower is the stinking corpse lily which can be up to 90 centimetres in diameter.
The smallest flowers are found on the
artillery plant. They are only 0,35 millimetres in diameter.

Insect-pollinated flowers

A bee approaching hibiscus flowers © Shirley Burchill

Most of the animals which transfer pollen from flower to flower are insects. These flowers are called insect-pollinated flowers. The insects are attracted by the colour and scent of the flowers. The flowers provide food for the insects which visit them. At the bottom of the petals there are sacks which contain a sugary substance called nectar.

Facts iconJohnny's Fact File No.32
Flowers are sometimes useful to us for other reasons than just for decoration. A few flowers are important foods; broccoli, cauliflower and artichoke are collections of flower buds which we eat as vegetables. Many flowers are used to add taste to food. Cloves are dried flower buds and saffron comes from the female parts of the purple autumn crocus.
In some countries the petals of
roses and marigolds are used to flavour food such as soups and salads. Dandelion and elderberry flowers are used to make wine. In China, fried squash flowers are considered to be a luxury food!
Honey is made from nectar. The best nectar for making honey comes from
clover, orange and sage flowers.
Some flower petals are used to make expensive perfumes, such as
jasmine, mimosa and rose. The petals of some brightly coloured flowers are used to make coloured dyes for clothes.

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