The most diverse group among plant classifications is angiosperms. These are plants that produce a flower. There are 300,000 different species of flowering plants. The first flowering plants are believed to have diverged from conifers about 120 million years ago. The reproductive organs of angiosperms are the flowers. For these flowers, the male reproductive element is the stamen, and the female is the pistil. When the two meet, a seed is produced.
Pollinators are the animals that transfer pollen from one plant to another. There are about 200,000 animals that act as pollinators worldwide. They are responsible for pollinating approximately 75% of the plants grown for food, beverages, and medicines. Flowers developed over time to attract different pollinators. For example, Magnolia trees evolved before bees, and therefore depend on a beetle for their pollination. The structure of their carpel is harder than in most flowers to allow it to withstand the damage the beetle’s mandibles could cause. The beetles are attracted to the protein-rich pollen that the magnolia produces.
When you think about pollinators, you probably think about bees. They are by far one of the top pollinators worldwide. The flowers that attract bees are full of nectar. They have brightly colored petals that are often blue or yellow, smell sweet, are open in the daytime, or have a landing platform. You may find it surprising that the largest pollinators (by size) are lemurs! Found on Madagascar, they are the primary pollinator of the Traveler’s Palm trees (ravenala madagascariensis). These trees can be up to 40 feet tall. As they reach in with their face and snout to get the fruit of the tree, they are covered in pollen, which they then transfer to the next flower.
When you are growing flowers, it is essential to know how the plants are classified by their growth cycle. Annuals are plants that only have a one-year life cycle. They tend to bloom longer than perennial plants and go to seed. They can self-seed and come back the next year, but it is not reliable. Perennial plants return more than two years in a row. They are further divided into herbaceous and woody plants. Herbaceous plants have a green stem and die back to the ground each year, while woody plants have woody stems that remain above ground. Trees and shrubs are considered woody perennials. These plants don’t flower as long as annuals, but they can survive for many years.
Biennials are plants that have a two-year life cycle. The first year they are a green plant and the second year they grow flowers and produce seeds, and then they die. Foxgloves and Hollyhocks are examples of biennials. Some plants are perennial in warmer climates and annuals in colder climates. If you live in a colder area, they may come back depending on winter conditions.
Without going into the scientific naming process of plants, many commercial plant growers are cultivating plants that are hybrids, and they are often sterile. In some cases, creating a non-reproducing version has been necessary to allow some invasive plants to be grown in a typical garden setting. However, as beautiful as these are, they could deprive wildlife of some natural sources of food. There has been a lot of push towards growing natives plants for your native wildlife.
Flowers, to me, are the reward of gardening. When I plant flowers, it feels like I succeeded. Hopefully, your plants will reward you with a beautiful flowering this year!