March 16, 2009

What is a flower?

What is a flower? So simple a question would scarcely need an answer if flowers were only just as simple. Actually they are extremely complex and it would cater to the vanity of the sentimentalist if we could say they where created only for our enjoyment -- their alluring forms, their color and frequently their quite seductive odor. But such a concept is fantastically false. The true function of flowers is reproduction and nothing else, and upon the sex life of flowers our very existance depends. Without it there would be no weat or rice, no coffee or chocolate, no timber or cotton, no quinine or digitalis, and in a few years the earth would return to something like its reputed condition in the first chapters of Genesis.

In what does the sex life of flowers consist? Basically it is very like the reproduction process in man or any other animal. Male and female must be brought together at the proper time in order that fertilization may be completed to perpetuate the race.

How do flowers accomplish this? While the sex organs of flowers are their most essential organs, they do not usually stand naked and their arrangement within the flower is neither an accidental nor has nature left these delicate sex organs without proper protection. To understand their arrangement it is necessary to look at a typical flower rather carefully. Just the beneath the showy petals is a usually greenish envelope known as a calyx which is often divided into individual sepals. This calyx usually covers the flower while it is stil in bud, and even after the flowers opens is still the outer envelope of normal flowers. The next inner circle of organs comprise the petals, which are sometimes of seperate segments, as in a pink, but are quite often united to form a cup-shaped corolla, as in the lily-of-the-valley.

Within these outer envelopes of calyx and coralla are placed the sex organs. They consist, usualy of a central female organ, including an ovary, clustered around which are the male organs of stamens. These produce the familiar yellow "dust" which is the male fertilizing pollen. This, at the proper time, must be deposited upon the prolongation of the ovary (known as the style and stigma). This usually happens when the stigma is slightly sticky. What is called pollination is then completed, and the stage is set for the fertilization of the ovules. It is these fertilizied ovules (future seeds) within the ovary (the future fruit) that ensure the perpetuation of nearly all flowers.

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