Monday, June 18, 2007

A Couple of Composites

Even in a garden that's a bit of a disaster area like mine, June is almost sure to be a great month because so many things are at their best. One of the biggest families of flowering plants is the Asteraceae, or Aster family, otherwise known as composites, because the single "flowers" are actually a complex inflorescence made up of sometimes hundreds of individual flowers. The disc of this sunflower is the mass of fertile flowers, the "petals" are the infertile "ray" flowers, which serve as advertisement so that the pollintors will find the business part of the inflorescence.

If you don't believe me, look at this photo up close. (Actually, you should just believe me. But look at it anyway, I guarantee you you will never see a sunflower the same way again!) You can clearly see the individual flowers, each of which will produce exactly one seed, with the sexual parts protruding promiscuously to smear pollen on and receive it from visiting insects.

The Composite family includes lots of familiar/favorite garden plants like daisies, chrysanthemums, marigolds, achillea (at left)... the list goes on and on. It also includes some edibles, like artichokes. I think most people know that an artichoke is a big flower bud (actually a giant thistle), but it always surprises me how many have never actually seen an artichoke open. I planted three last year, and as cleaned artichoke hearts here go for anywhere from 50-75 cents a piece (and cheaper if you take you artichoke salesmen's pictures and provide prints!), I decided to let mine open. It's a spectacular sight. The picture to the right is an artichoke bud just beginning to open; the flowers aren't yet visible. I'll post a picture of the fully opened one when it's time. But be sure to look at this one enlarged too; it's pretty amazing....

1 comment:

quu said...

You are so right - everything look so different when you look close enough. sometimes macropics are terrible - too much information I'll say, if you know what I mean. Specially macros of insects.. :D