June 14, 2013

The Myriad Forms of Flowers

Centaurea montana

I often marvel at the complexity of some flowers, such as this Centaurea, with its petals finely divided at their ends, and interiors of spidery black and violet.


Or of this columbine, growing wild in the back yard, with its numerous petals overlapping each other, each a small curved trumpet. When I see forms like these I wonder about the evolutionary reasons for them, and for all the variations in flower form; after all, their reason for being is reproduction. Then I think about how boring humans are in comparison, with our sameness of from and just tiny variations in color, size, and shape. But of course...humans are only one species, homo sapiens, in the animal kingdom. There are about 5500 mammal species. But the number of species of flowering plants is 250,000-400,000! no wonder that they are so varied.


Some flowers grow in spikes, made of of many flowers. In the case of Salvia, the individual flowers are  small.

Dictamnus alba

The Dictamnus flowers are quite showy, so each spike is dramatic, and lovely from a distance.


Baptisia is in the legume family, so its flowers, on long showy spikes in a shrub-like plant, have a resemblance to pea flowers.

Siberian Iris "Summer Skies"

There are many flowers that grow one or two or three to a stem, such as irises, with their lovely arrangement of spreading and upright petals. Words used to describe the parts of the iris flower: standard, crest, fall.

Korean Lilac "Miss Kim"

Many flowering shrubs––lilacs, hydrangea, viburnum––have composite blooms made up of many small florets. This shrub, the last lilac to bloom in my garden, has delicate fragrant flowers that open up at their rounded ends like so many bugles announcing the day.

Meadow flower, a variety of Hawkweed?

The flower head with rays of petals in a circle is so familiar to us from dandelions.

Wild Rose
Snowdrop Anemone

Then there are flowers that are elegant in their simplicity, several petals surrounding the center of stamen and pistils. 

Jack in the Pulpit

All the flowers above are in my yard, but this amazing wildflower, the Jack in the Pulpit, was alongside the path in the woods. The "Jack" sticking up at its center is actually a spadix, with tiny flowers at its base, and the curved form above is a spathe, a leaf-like bract. So in this plant, the actual flowers are hidden from view. The world of flowers, so varied even in this tiny corner of Vermont, is wonderful to contemplate.


  1. A beautiful collection of late spring early summer bloomers. Have a great weekend.

    1. Thanks, Lisa. I hope you're enjoying your weekend; we had a lovely start to the day today.

  2. Nice tour, Altoon! The yellow one is Goat's Beard, Tragopogon, an English native, with wonderful curly leave and that big creamcolored globe of a seedhead.

    1. Thanks, Susan. Oh yes, I remember that big, gorgeous seedhead. Thanks for the name of the flower.