As you glance at the picture below how many flowers do you see?
Head shot of a marigold
I do not know exactly how many are visible, but the answer is a relatively large number. Each of the structures that you feel inclined to call a petal is actually a flower in this case. The entire structure is called a head (which consists of ray flowers that look like petals and in the middle you’ll find disk flowers that look like tubes). Welcome to the crazy world of Asteracaeae.
An individual marigold ray flower.
In the case of a mum the ray flowers and disk flowers are a bit easier to spot.
Since this is a Dendranthema maybe it should be called a ma?
So the individual parts look like this (well, almost like this, the picture below was taken with a different Dendranthema cultivar).
Disk and ray flowers of a mum.
So as a bit of a review, how many flowers are featured in this picture?
Dianthus 'Frosty Fire'
Ah, this is a trick question. Dianthus is in a different plant family, so it just one flower. The things that look like petals are actually petals. Of course you could argue that the answer is two based upon the glimpse of a second flower on the left margin.
Back to the Asteraceae.
An abundance of flowers.
By the way, if you ever refer to a head of flowers as an individual flower I won’t think less of you.
Usually when I walk down the sidewalk I am largely ignored. But I noticed an interesting development over the past few months.
Sometimes I walk to Woodring’s Floral Gardens on Allen Street to buy cut flowers to dissect and examine in the Horticultural Systematics class I am teaching this semester. As I walk to Woodring’s everything is normal.
I arrive at the shop, purchase a collection of cut flowers, and embark on my return trip to Tyson building. And this is when things change.
As I walk down the sidewalk holding a bouquet people smile at me. Especially women. It’s like I’m Steve Buscemi walking to the florist and Brad Pitt on the way back.
If they knew the flowers were destined for dissection I bet they wouldn’t be so generous with their smiles. Awww, there goes a good boyfriend has more appeal than there goes a horticulturist with floral cadavers.
The next time I’m having a bad day I might buy a bunch of flowers and simply walk around town.
I enjoy macro photography, though at the present time my macro photography equipment is lacking. Petals are of particular interest to me. Here are a few edited shots of petals (foxglove, daylily, and iris).
I take pictures of plants. It’s a mixture of hobby and obsession. Georgia O’Keefe once stated that a flower can become the world (in the eyes of the beholder). I think I know what she was talking about. Flowers are amazing. Here are four pictures I took several years ago: