An introduction to flowers and flower structures.
A foraging guide to flowers and inflorescence.
In this foraging guide to flowers and inflorescence, you will be introduced to the structure of flowers and the various ways flowers are grouped together, also known as the inflorescence.
Plant patterns for 11 of the most important plant families for foragers to know, were covered in a previous article. This gives you the basic awareness of the specific floral structures to look out for in mints, peas, roses, docks, buttercups, figworts, carrots, lilies, chickweeeds, mustards, and beetroot family.
There are only a few things to note about the essential structures of flowers, although they come in wide and varied form.
Foraging Guide to Flowers: Their basic structure
- The corolla is a general term describing the whole set of flowering organs.
- The stigma, style and ovules are female reproductive organs. There can be many or few.
- The stigma, style and ovary combined, are also commonly referred to as the pistil.
- The filament and anther (also known as stamens) are male reproductive organs. There can be many or few
- The ovary can be situated below (inferior ovary) or above (superior ovary) the base of the stamens.
- Sepals and bracts can protect the flower petals before opening and support it upon opening. Sepals can look like petals i.e. daffodils and many lilies.
- The collection of sepals are also known as the calyx.
- The groups of petals or sepals can be fused together. Either or all can be missing.
Most plants will display some and not all of the parts shown above. Many flowers are male only, many female only. Large numbers of species have dispensed with or adapted the various organs.
I think most readers are already aware of the huge variability in flower structure and form from what you have seen up to now, it’s just that you havent learnt the language.
Foragers guide to different inflorescence
Flowers come in many guises, sometimes held to the plant on stalks and branches, sometimes not. The procession and order of the flowers and their various structures are important for helping us identify plants.
The majority of the common flowering arrays are included. An article and illustration on the daisy family flowers and their variations will soon be here.
Cyme:As found on comfrey
Dichasium or forked cyme, i.e.borage
Panicle: As found on oats
Racemes: commonly found in Brassica family
Spikes: A range of different plants, like mullein & lavender
Keep an eye out for species with a singular or terminal inflorescence, where you find only one flower or head produced on each flower stalk. The poppies (Papavaceae family) are known for such singular flower heads.
There are also adapted structures like the spathe and spadix shown by Arum species like Lords and ladies
As you can see, there are only a few basic types of inflorescence for us to know here in Britain, and this small amount of knowledge goes a long way.
They can help us decide between close-looking genera. Helpfully, numerous genera in a family can tend to display similar inflorescence.
So in the wild when coming across an unidentified plant, you can now note its type of inflorescence and the pattern of flower production. This can often determine which plant family we are present with. Appreciating the various forms of inflorescence, broadens our knowledge of plants considerably and adds confidence to plant identification.
If this summary foraging guide to flowers and inflorescence has helped you, remember to share with your social networks! Thanks.
Other foraging resources are here to help you sharpen your foraging skills, such as these waterproof plant identification cards and colour coded, seasonal harvesting charts for more than 80 species. Information on harvesting wild plants is available here.
If you want to implement your increasing foraging skills on practical courses, come and browse through the various upcoming foraging courses.