Did you know that most members of the daisy family (or Compositae) have ‘composite’ flower heads? Each ‘flower’ actually consists of hundreds of tiny flowers squashed together – the inner circle containing the true flowers that contain the reproductive organs (known as the ‘disc florets’) and the outer ring of petal-like structures are actually individual flowers posing as petals (known as ‘ray florets’), these are usually sterile but occasionally you can see the tiny stamen or stigma emerging.
A sunflower is the classic example – each individual disc floret has a single ovary and after pollination, each one develops a hard seed coat with a single seed inside, which you will recognise as sunflower seeds.
This Zinnia flower clearly demonstrates a ring of tiny flowers opening, they usually open concentrically, one ring at a time to help avoid self fertilisation and spread the flowering period. Check out the Rudbeckia in the feature image too, see if you can spot the true flowers!
Take a close look at all of your daisies! sometimes you need a magnifying glass – to see this interesting and clever trick of nature.
If you want to find out more about the fascinating world of plants, come along on our botany short course this autumn! Basic botany course
The daisy family has recently been reclassified and is now known as the Asteraceae family and consists of over 1500 genera – see how many you have in your garden!