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Index of Wildflowers (Common Names)
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Wildflowers At A Glance


Introduction to Flowers

What is a flower?

The purpose of a flower is to produce fruits or seeds for reproduction. Each part of the flower has a specific job. Most flowers have both male and female parts.


Flame Azalea

Parts of flowers

Sepals - Many sepals are bud covers which protect the flower before it blooms; some help support the petals when the flower blooms. These are often, but not always, green in color. Some flowers, such as lilies, have sepals that are the same color as the petals, also called "tepals". Other flowers have only colored sepals and no petals.

Petals - Many flowers have large, colorful petals. Petals serve as "cafe signs" to attract pollinators. Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators come to the flowers to drink the sweet nectar. In the process of getting a meal, they also spread pollen from one flower to another. Some petals have special markings called nectar guides. These markings serve as "road maps" to show the pollinators where to find the nectar. Some nectar guides are spots or stripes or they may be
a different colored single petal, as seen on the flame azaleas above. Wind-pollinated flowers, such as grasses, ragweed, and many trees, do not have petals.
   
Wild Petunia (notice the nectar guides on the petals)

Stamens - The male parts of the flower, the stamens, produce pollen on the anthers. Pollen fertilizes the ova inside the ovary to produce seeds. The staminate flowers of wind-pollinated plants dump loads of pollen into the air to be spread to the tiny pistils by the wind. These flowers are an allergy sufferer's nightmare!

Pistil - The female part of the flower is made up of the ovary, style, and stigma. To avoid self-fertilization, many flowers have pistils that are either shorter or longer than the stamens. Some flowers prevent
self-fertilization by having the pollen on the anthers mature at a different time than the stigma. The stigma is sticky to help trap the pollen grains. Pollen grains grow a long tube down through the style (which is several inches long in the case of corn silks), the genetic material from the pollen travels down the tube to the eggs. The ovaries sometimes become edible fruits such as apples, cucumbers, corn, oranges, tomatoes, beans, etc. Not all fruits are edible, for instance, cotton bolls are the fruits of the cotton flower.

Colors of flowers

Flowers come in many different colors; the color of the flower often influences the type of pollinator that visits it.
Bees are able to see
ultraviolet light, a "color" that humans can't see. Many flowers reflect ultraviolet light. Some flowers have ultraviolet nectar guides, they "glow" like neon signs in a field.



Red and orange flowers attract hummingbirds. Bees can't see red or orange.
Blue, yellow and white flowers attract bees and butterflies.     
Maroon flowers attract flies and some beetles.    
Green flowers are usually, but not always, wind pollinated.

Shapes of flowers


Coneflower with Bumblebee

Flowers come in many different shapes, which determines what type of pollinator they attract.

Saucer or bowl-shaped flowers - these are simple, primitive flowers which are usually visited by "intellectually challenged" insects such as beetles, wasps, and hoverflies. Examples: Roses, poppies, magnolias, St. Johnsworts

Bell flowers - these are more complex flowers which are pollinated by bees. Examples: Morning glories, lily of the valley, chives, nasturtium, campanula

Tube flowers - these flowers must be visited by pollinators with long tongues, such as bees, butterflies, moths, and  humming birds in order to be fertilized. All mint flowers are tube-shaped. Examples: Mints, cardinal flower, phlox, primroses, trumpet creeper

Pea or bean-type flowers - these flowers are considered a form of tube flower. They always have an upper petal called a standard, a lower petal called a keel, and two petals on each
side of the keel called wings. If you open the wings you can see the stamens and pistil of the flower. These flowers are usually visited by bees and honeybees. Examples: Sweetpea, clovers, alfalfa, locust, vetches, tick trefoils, kudzu, lupines, wisteria

Composite flowers - these flowers are made up of a few to hundreds of smaller, individual florets called "disk flowers" in the center and the petal-like "ray flowers" around the edges. Many composites bloom from the outside of the disk to the inside. The individual flowers mature at different rates, so outer flowers have mature pistils and the inner flowers have mature stamens. When a bee visits a flower, she gets pollen on her body from the inner flowers which she then deposits on the pistils of the next flower. Each individual flower can make a single seed. Examples: daisies, chicory, fleabanes, ragweed, yarrow, pussytoes, asters, goldenrods, sunflowers, thistles, coreopsis, coneflowers, elephant's foot, ironweed, Joe-Pye-weed, rabbit tobacco, sneezeweeds, hawkweeds, rattlesnake weeds, blazing stars



Closed flowers - these flowers have such tightly closed petals they are pollinated by only large, strong, intelligent insects such as bumblebees which are able to force their way into them. Examples: some gentians, turtlehead, toadflax

Trap flowers - these flowers are "sneaky," they trap insects inside them until pollination occurs.
Milkweeds are interesting flowers in that they catch insects' legs in little slits which contain the V-shaped pollen-bearing pollinia. Some weaker insects, such as soldier beetles, are unable to escape from the slits and they die. Examples: some orchids, Dutchman's-pipe

Wind-pollinated flowers - these flowers are dull colored, have no petals and produce huge amounts of pollen. The anthers of some wind-pollinated flowers hang by thin threads. Examples: Ragweed, grasses, pine and juniper trees, oak trees, many other trees

Ragweed

Ragweed Flowers (Male flowers above, female flowers in leaf axils)

Cleistogomous Flowers - Some flowers, such as violets, have closed, self-pollinating flowers. The green pod beneath the purple bloom  is a cleistogomous flower. The open brown pod has already split and thrown its seeds.


Violet



Be sure to observe different wildflowers to see which insects or animals pollinate them.

Seeds

Plants have different methods of spreading their seeds:
Wind - these seeds have parachutes or wings  (called "samaras") to spread by the wind; examples: dandelion, maple
Animals -1. Seeds have hooks to stick to animals' fur (or your socks); examples: cockleburs, tick trefoils, Spanish needles, agrimony
               2. Fruits are eaten and seeds pass through bird or other animals' digestive tract; examples: dogwood, poison ivy, honeysuckle, Jack-in-the-Pulpit
               3. Seeds are buried by squirrels or birds for later consumption;
examples: acorns, walnuts
Ejection - Some plants throw their seeds; examples: Jewelweed, geranium, witch-hazel

Life Cycle

Annual - the plant lives only one year; it dies in the winter, reseeds, and then new plants grow from the seeds the following year
Perennial - the plant overwinters and grows back from the roots the following spring; it lives for 3 or more years
Biennial - the plant lives 2 years, the first year as a leafy, non-blooming plant, the second year it blooms, goes to seed, and then dies

 

Webpage: Intro