A bouquet in one blossom

By Carol / June 24, 2010 /

When I spotted this among the coneflowers in my patio garden, I didn’t know quite what to think. The center cone is part of a purple coneflower, but only a part. Why weren’t the long pink petals filling out the blossom? What is happening in this plant?

A blossom unfurling is a miracle to behold. And none more than coneflowers, as colors and textures and elements emerge. So this cornflower, stopping with only a cone was surprising. And puzzling.

A few days later, a friend joined me in a walk in my prairie, where Black-eyed Susans bloom in abundance. “Plenty of composites,” she observed in passing. “Composites?” I asked. “What are composites?”

She shed a little light on the make up of flowers, if not on the circumstances surrounding my specific bloom, when she explained that each blossom of Black-eyed Susans and Purple Coneflowers and Sunflowers is actually made up of several different flowers – the ‘cone’ is one, each ‘petal’ another flower. Composite flowers have evolved so that each blossom is actually dozens, hundreds even, of flowers.

Come to find out, many flowers fall into the composite category: dandelions, asters, thistles, dahlias, to name a few.  I wonder if the bees love my coneflowers so much because when they visit one blossom, they are enjoying the nectar of an entire bouquet?

Composite flowers are a clear demonstration of the old saying, “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” A savvy man could take advantage of this knowledge when he gives his love a single flower- if he chooses the right bloom!

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