What is a flower? A brief explanation

Published: 25th May 2011
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What is a flower? A brief explanation.

A flower is the part of a plant that is used for reproduction. Some plants reproduce themselves using seeds or bulbs, which can take many forms – from seed pods that fly with the wind to fruits which are eaten by animals and then spread when the animal excretes them.

Other plants, however, use flowers to create and transfer pollen – rather like sperm in animals. Flowers have male and female organs, called stamens and stigma, which work exactly like animal sex organs – ie one of them gives out the pollen, while the other one accepts it and transfers it to the eggs, this achieving fertilization. This pollen is usually transferred from stamen to stigma by employing a third party to transfer from flower to flower. Most of the time this third party is an insect, attracted by the bright colours or scents given off buy the flower, but sometimes it can stick to the fur of a passing animal or even just be transferred by the wind. Some flowers can self-pollinate, which means they do not need a sexual partner or a third party but can just reproduce themselves, literally creating both the "egg" and the "sperm" and transferring it within themselves! These are known as "abiotic" flowers, while flowers which use a third party (or "pollinator") are known as "biotic".

But the majority of flowers employ insects to do the pollination for them, and this is explains the many varieties of styles, colours and fragrances that have evolved over the ages. Forced by evolution to make themselves attractive to insects in order to reproduce, flowers have used many tricks to get themselves noticed – everything from bright colours to pretty shapes to sweet fragrances. Amongst the most cunning of these flowers is the Orchid, whose different varieties have used most of these tricks, even mimicking the shape of female insects in order to attract males! Other flowers have evolved clever designs to not only attract desired insects but to ward off undesired predators, using unattractive scents or even tiny weapons to harm the predators.

It is of course because of these attractive and interesting qualities that humans are so interested in flowers and, in more recent history, have begun breeding them commercially. We have attached a great deal of symbolism, mostly romantic, to some of the prettier and more fragrant flowers and because of this flower delivery is now a huge global business.

David,a passionate gardener, runs a very popular Thailand flower deliveryservice and in his spare time likes to share his passion for flowers and gardening by writing articles.

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