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  #1  
Old 10-23-2009, 08:03 AM
Mr Buttons Mr Buttons is offline
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How do plants that grow from bulbs reproduce in the wild?

After winding down my 1st year of attempting to garden, I've reached the point where I'm planting spring flowers for next year. I've noticed almost all the early-mid spring flowers (Tulips, Hydrangeas, Daffodils, etc) are grown from bulbs. I've been looking around a bunch of gardening sites, but I have yet to discover how these plants were ever a viable wild plant.

It seems as though the bulbs are nature's equivalent of a Powerbar, packed full of nutrients that it will use the following season after being planted. As such, they seem to be prime targets of deer/vermin/slugs/snails and stuff. The bulbs also need to be buried at least 3-4" deep, and preferably planted w/ the "root side" facing down. Both of those last two conditions seem awfully unlikely to happen without humans getting involved to raise them.

So how did these plants survive/thrive before those crazy Dutch started growing/shipping them all over the world?
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  #2  
Old 10-23-2009, 08:06 AM
jayjay jayjay is offline
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Bulb plants still produce seed, for one thing. The flowers on wild narcissi and tulips are fertile (the flowers on hybrids probably are, too, but they don't breed true).

Also, bulbs generally bud off...the bulbs produce little bulbs alongside them. This is particularly noticeable in narcissi. If you plant 10 daffodil bulbs one year, you'll probably have 20 or 30 five years later with no fuss on your part.

Last edited by jayjay; 10-23-2009 at 08:07 AM..
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  #3  
Old 10-23-2009, 08:55 AM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
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1. The bulb divides into two bulbs on many flowers.

2. Most of them develop little bulbs at the base of a mature bulb where the roots attach.

3. They do flower and produce seed, which is handy for developing new varieties, but not of use for the grower that wants to sell a specific variety.

4. They produce bulbs on the stem at each leaf node. The bulbs drop during the season at some point onto the ground and sprout. Look at the tiger lily for an example.

Last edited by Harmonious Discord; 10-23-2009 at 08:56 AM..
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  #4  
Old 10-23-2009, 09:25 AM
Vorpal Blade Vorpal Blade is offline
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<Partial Hijack>How do bulbs such as crocii, tulips, etc. cross-pollinate? It seems they (especially crocii) grow when it's barely above freezing and thus there are no, or damned few, active insects about? Do they depend on wind?</Partial Hijack>
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  #5  
Old 10-23-2009, 09:43 AM
pan1 pan1 is offline
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Flowering plants tend to not be wind pollinators. Why have brightly colored petals if no to attract the bugs, birds and bats that you rely on to procreate?

One early season bee can go a long way. Bees become active in gathering pollen at the same time as the flowers start blooming. But the annual bee population surge won't happen until most of the flowers are in bloom.

Tulips (I don' t know about the others) are capable of self-pollinization.
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  #6  
Old 10-23-2009, 09:48 AM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
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No matter what spring plants you look at they do vary as to when they flower, because of being in the shade or full sun. The ones in the shade easily are a month behind the full sun ones for flowering. By the time the last ones are flowering there are many bees. Wind pollination accounts for some pollination too. You also run across the odd bee in spring on a warm day when you don't expect them. I have taken pictures with a bee on some of my earliest flowering daffodils.
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  #7  
Old 10-23-2009, 09:51 AM
jayjay jayjay is offline
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Incidentally, I'm assuming you meant "hyacinths" and not "hydrangeas" in your OP, as hydrangeas aren't bulb plants, but shrubs.
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  #8  
Old 10-23-2009, 10:00 AM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Originally Posted by pan1 View Post
Flowering plants tend to not be wind pollinators. Why have brightly colored petals if no to attract the bugs, birds and bats that you rely on to procreate?
Many flowering plants, including grasses, sedges, oaks, beeches, and other trees are wind-pollinated.

What you mean is that plants with showy flowers are not wind-pollinated. Of course showy flowers are in general an adaptation to attract animal pollinators; wind pollinated species usually have small and inconspicous flowers.
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  #9  
Old 10-23-2009, 10:03 AM
Mr Buttons Mr Buttons is offline
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Originally Posted by jayjay View Post
Incidentally, I'm assuming you meant "hyacinths" and not "hydrangeas" in your OP, as hydrangeas aren't bulb plants, but shrubs.
Yeah, that's what I meant.

Thanks for the replies, but one more question. I wasn't aware these flowers put out seeds as well. What's the point of reproducing 2 ways? Wouldn't it require less energy to produce all seeds instead of creating a new, energy-intensive bulb underground?
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  #10  
Old 10-23-2009, 10:05 AM
lissener lissener is offline
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Also, many domesticated cultivars--if not most--"behave" differently from their wild ancestors. A lot of them are intentionally bred to be less vigorous reproducers, otherwise some of them would act like weeds in your garden. (And you'll find, Mr B, that some of them still do.)

When you're reading catalogs, look for key words like "naturalize." Some cultivars of daffodils/jonquils/etc. are great naturalizers: you can plant a scattered handful, and a few years later have a lovely yellow meadow. "Vigorous" means you only plant it inside a sunken metal tub. And if the catalog entirely eschews euphemisms and admits that a plant is "invasive," you should have a flamethrower among your gardening implements. You know, for plants like mint, bamboo, and macleaya.
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  #11  
Old 10-23-2009, 10:08 AM
lissener lissener is offline
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Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
Many flowering plants, including grasses, sedges, oaks, beeches, and other trees are wind-pollinated.

What you mean is that plants with showy flowers are not wind-pollinated. Of course showy flowers are in general an adaptation to attract animal pollinators; wind pollinated species usually have small and inconspicous flowers.
Gardeners tend to distinguish between "flowers" and "inflorescences." A little bit lay-jargony, perhaps, and not strictly kosher botanically speaking, Colibri, but a helpful distinction on the ground. As it were.
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  #12  
Old 10-23-2009, 10:11 AM
lissener lissener is offline
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Originally Posted by Mr Buttons View Post
Yeah, that's what I meant.

Thanks for the replies, but one more question. I wasn't aware these flowers put out seeds as well. What's the point of reproducing 2 ways? Wouldn't it require less energy to produce all seeds instead of creating a new, energy-intensive bulb underground?
This gets into more of an evolution debate. The "point" is that it has worked to do so, so far, and the extra energy expended has not had a deleterious effect on the plants in question. Obviously greater reproduction--i.e., across more than one platform, so to speak--will mean a greater distribution of that plant's genes. And if doing so doesn't net negative, the plant will successfully pass on that ability.
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  #13  
Old 10-23-2009, 10:11 AM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
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Bulb multiplication is a more sure way of reproduction than seed. It starts with a larger food source and more developed plant. Bulbs don't move around very much so the new plants take forever to spread. Seeds spread more easily and have new gene combinations. Bulbs do mutate occasionally, but it's not common. The bulbs from the leaf nodes of the tiger lily do manage to spread a number of feet from the plant during heavy rains, but most bulb plants don't have the above ground bulb production.

Last edited by Harmonious Discord; 10-23-2009 at 10:14 AM..
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  #14  
Old 10-23-2009, 10:14 AM
jayjay jayjay is offline
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Originally Posted by Mr Buttons View Post
Thanks for the replies, but one more question. I wasn't aware these flowers put out seeds as well. What's the point of reproducing 2 ways? Wouldn't it require less energy to produce all seeds instead of creating a new, energy-intensive bulb underground?
Seeds are a crap-shoot, genetically and mechanically. There's no guarantee that the offspring are going to be healthy or successful, as the genetic mix isn't always going to be robust. There's no guarantee that any individual seed (or, for that matter, ANY of the seed) will find a welcoming bed to germinate in (or germinate at all, for that matter).

Vegetative reproduction, like the bulbils and bulblets, produces a clone of the parent plant, which is a proven success since it's gotten to the point of reproductive maturity already. They don't produce new traits as seeds are capable of, however, so that's a slight disadvantage.

In other words, both methods have their advantages and disadvantages.

You also have to look at the native habitat of the plant. Most of the bulb plants are native to Mediterranean areas...long, hot, dry summers and short, cool, wet winters. In that climate, it's not the winters that are dangerous to the plant but the summers. Since the winter, with its rain, last so short a time, the plants have evolved to soak up the nutrients during the rainy season and store them over the summers underground, so that they can get a head start on growth the next rainy season. That's why bulb leaves fade and die off so quickly (usually before summer's half over in our climate). The bulb goes dormant around June or July (for spring bulbs, anyway). and sits underground waiting for spring again, its flower and leaf buds already formed and sitting inside the bulb.
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  #15  
Old 10-23-2009, 10:15 AM
pan1 pan1 is offline
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Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
Many flowering plants, including grasses, sedges, oaks, beeches, and other trees are wind-pollinated.

What you mean is that plants with showy flowers are not wind-pollinated. Of course showy flowers are in general an adaptation to attract animal pollinators; wind pollinated species usually have small and inconspicous flowers.
yes, that's what I mean. Showy Flowers...
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  #16  
Old 10-23-2009, 10:18 AM
Mr Buttons Mr Buttons is offline
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Originally Posted by jayjay View Post
Seeds are a crap-shoot, genetically and mechanically. There's no guarantee that the offspring are going to be healthy or successful, as the genetic mix isn't always going to be robust. There's no guarantee that any individual seed (or, for that matter, ANY of the seed) will find a welcoming bed to germinate in (or germinate at all, for that matter).

Vegetative reproduction, like the bulbils and bulblets, produces a clone of the parent plant, which is a proven success since it's gotten to the point of reproductive maturity already. They don't produce new traits as seeds are capable of, however, so that's a slight disadvantage.

In other words, both methods have their advantages and disadvantages.

You also have to look at the native habitat of the plant. Most of the bulb plants are native to Mediterranean areas...long, hot, dry summers and short, cool, wet winters. In that climate, it's not the winters that are dangerous to the plant but the summers. Since the winter, with its rain, last so short a time, the plants have evolved to soak up the nutrients during the rainy season and store them over the summers underground, so that they can get a head start on growth the next rainy season. That's why bulb leaves fade and die off so quickly (usually before summer's half over in our climate). The bulb goes dormant around June or July (for spring bulbs, anyway). and sits underground waiting for spring again, its flower and leaf buds already formed and sitting inside the bulb.
Thanks! That pretty much explained everything I was wondering about. Awesome help.
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  #17  
Old 10-23-2009, 10:21 AM
johnpost johnpost is online now
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Originally Posted by pan1 View Post
Flowering plants tend to not be wind pollinators. Why have brightly colored petals if no to attract the bugs, birds and bats that you rely on to procreate?
insect or animal pollinators also are stinky or have nectar or larger nutritious pollen.

air pollinated flowers are smaller and exposed to the air.
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  #18  
Old 10-23-2009, 10:24 AM
Colophon Colophon is online now
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Originally Posted by Mr Buttons View Post
Yeah, that's what I meant.

Thanks for the replies, but one more question. I wasn't aware these flowers put out seeds as well. What's the point of reproducing 2 ways? Wouldn't it require less energy to produce all seeds instead of creating a new, energy-intensive bulb underground?
I always figured the bulb isn't the primary means of reproduction at all - it's simply a handy storage facility for energy in the life cycle of the plant. The crocus (or whatever) emerges in early spring, grows and produces flowers and seeds, and takes in energy through its leaves. Then that energy is taken down into the bulb, the leaves wither and die but the plant is safe under the ground to grow again the following year.

Am I totally misinformed? (I know bulbs do divide, but I thought that was just a bonus, as it were).

Last edited by Colophon; 10-23-2009 at 10:24 AM.. Reason: apostrophe's
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  #19  
Old 10-23-2009, 10:44 AM
Blake Blake is offline
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Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
I always figured the bulb isn't the primary means of reproduction at all - it's simply a handy storage facility for energy in the life cycle of the plant. The crocus (or whatever) emerges in early spring, grows and produces flowers and seeds, and takes in energy through its leaves. Then that energy is taken down into the bulb, the leaves wither and die but the plant is safe under the ground to grow again the following year.

Am I totally misinformed? (I know bulbs do divide, but I thought that was just a bonus, as it were).
No, you're pretty much spot on.


It's worth noting however that plenty of plants have two or even four or five distinct methods of propagation. Each method serves a different purpose. Take you common violets for example, where some flowers are self pollinated and produce seeds genetically identical to the parent, some flowers are open pollinated and produce novel cross breeds and the pant also produces vegetatively.

The self-pollinated seeds serve to produce plants that are known to be good at surviving in conditions identical to those in which they were produced, so if next year is identical to this year they are a sure bet. The open pollinated seeds are an unknown quantity, but some will perform worse under current conditions but much better under changed conditions, so they are a better choice in a changing environment. The vegetative runners are also genetically identical to the parent, but they can't spread very far, never more than a few meters from the parent. SO they're good for rapid reproduction in stable conditions, but lousy for dissemination or for survival under changing conditions.

There's no single best method of reproduction.
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  #20  
Old 10-23-2009, 10:52 AM
jayjay jayjay is offline
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This is probably a good point to note that not all spring "bulb" plants are actually bulbs. The big classic ones are: tulips, narcissi, and hyacinths. Some small ones are actual bulbs: grape hyacinths, snowdrops, scylla. Other classic ones aren't: crocuses have corms, not bulbs.

Now, the differences:

True bulbs have layers and layers of bulb scales (like onions, which the narcissi, at least, are related to). Inside these scales are actual leaf and flower buds that will pop into action when the soil warms and water starts to penetrate to them.

Corms are swollen stems, made of solid material (no layers) from which buds produce the plant when conditions are right. Crocuses, gladioli and Caladium grow from corms.

Tubers are swollen roots that store food for the plant, and are planted when dormant to come up in the spring like bulbs. Some daylilies, all dahlias, and sweet potato vines grow from tubers.

Rhizomes are swollen stems that store food for the plant, etc. Cannas, lily of the valley and the larger irises grow from rhizomes.

The important differences here are that the tubers and rhizomes don't really give the plant a jump start like bulbs do and corms, to a smaller degree, do. Most of the time, tubers and rhizomes grow later-flowering plants because they generally have to form the buds from scratch instead of having them waiting in storage.


Also, because (true) bulbs produce all their buds prior to dormancy and then just hold onto them until spring, they need to soak up all the sunlight and nutrients they can while they can. Don't "clean up" your bulb plants after they flower. You can remove the flowering stem, but don't cut down the leaves until they naturally wilt and fade...the bulb needs those "solar panels" out and working to pump everything to the basement. If they don't, you'll have either no flowers or really weak and shabby flowers the next spring.

Last edited by jayjay; 10-23-2009 at 10:56 AM..
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  #21  
Old 10-23-2009, 12:30 PM
Uncertain Uncertain is offline
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Originally Posted by lissener View Post
Gardeners tend to distinguish between "flowers" and "inflorescences."
Botanists make this distinction too, but not in the same way you seem to be saying gardeners do. Inflorescences contain flowers. In fact a "sunflower" is actually an inflorescence. Each of the "petals" is really a specialized flower with five fused petals. And the middle part has lots of flowers that do the actual reproduction. Sunflower plants have infloresecences, but they also have flowers, which are part of the inflorescences. And they are, I imagine, insect-pollinated.
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Old 10-23-2009, 12:36 PM
Uncertain Uncertain is offline
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Originally Posted by Mr Buttons View Post
I wasn't aware these flowers put out seeds as well. What's the point of reproducing 2 ways? Wouldn't it require less energy to produce all seeds instead of creating a new, energy-intensive bulb underground?
What would be the point of having flowers if they weren't making seeds? That's pretty much what flowers are for. (Note the defensive "pretty much", motivated by bitter experience.)
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Old 10-23-2009, 12:51 PM
Uncertain Uncertain is offline
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Originally Posted by Blake View Post
Take you common violets for example, where some flowers are self pollinated and produce seeds genetically identical to the parent, some flowers are open pollinated and produce novel cross breeds and the pant also produces vegetatively.
Would the products of self-pollination really be genetically identical to the parent? If we're really talking about self-pollination (as opposed to apomixis), this would only be true if the plant were already completely inbred. Some plants that almost always self-pollinate, such as arabidopsis, come close, but if violets also outcross a fair amount it wouldn't be true.
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  #24  
Old 10-23-2009, 12:56 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Originally Posted by pan1 View Post
yes, that's what I mean. Showy Flowers...
"Flowering plants" (angiosperms) has a specific botanical meaning, distinguishing them from gymnosperms (pines, etc), ferns, and others.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncertain View Post
Botanists make this distinction too, but not in the same way you seem to be saying gardeners do. Inflorescences contain flowers. In fact a "sunflower" is actually an inflorescence. Each of the "petals" is really a specialized flower with five fused petals. And the middle part has lots of flowers that do the actual reproduction. Sunflower plants have infloresecences, but they also have flowers, which are part of the inflorescences. And they are, I imagine, insect-pollinated.
Yes. All "flowers" in the composite family (daisys, dandelions, asters, sunflowers) are actually inflorescences. Most are insect-pollinated. And some composite "flowers" themselves are part of compound inflorescences.
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Old 10-23-2009, 01:22 PM
Mr Buttons Mr Buttons is offline
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Originally Posted by Uncertain View Post
What would be the point of having flowers if they weren't making seeds? That's pretty much what flowers are for. (Note the defensive "pretty much", motivated by bitter experience.)
I was guessing they spread their genetic material through flowering, but reproduced by budding out. I wasn't aware that the bulbs were clones.
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Old 10-23-2009, 01:32 PM
pan1 pan1 is offline
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Originally Posted by Uncertain View Post
Would the products of self-pollination really be genetically identical to the parent? If we're really talking about self-pollination (as opposed to apomixis), this would only be true if the plant were already completely inbred. Some plants that almost always self-pollinate, such as arabidopsis, come close, but if violets also outcross a fair amount it wouldn't be true.
Self pollination would not result in a clone.

Pollination takes two parts, each with half of each chromosome pair. But all of the pollen parts (sperm gamete) are not the all same mix of chromosomes(one of each, but not the same ones in each bit o' pollen) and all of the female gametes are likewise not the same. It's a different mix up of the parent's genes while a clone (bulb split) would be identical.
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  #27  
Old 10-23-2009, 05:05 PM
Uncertain Uncertain is offline
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Originally Posted by pan1 View Post
Self pollination would not result in a clone.

Pollination takes two parts, each with half of each chromosome pair. But all of the pollen parts (sperm gamete) are not the all same mix of chromosomes(one of each, but not the same ones in each bit o' pollen) and all of the female gametes are likewise not the same. It's a different mix up of the parent's genes while a clone (bulb split) would be identical.
Yes, that's what I was saying. But, I added, in a species that always self-pollinates there is complete inbreeding--the two chromosomes in each pair are identical, modulo very recent mutations--and the offspring are, in effect, clones of the mother. Some plant species come very close to this.
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  #28  
Old 10-23-2009, 05:20 PM
dracoi dracoi is offline
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It seems as though the bulbs are nature's equivalent of a Powerbar, packed full of nutrients that it will use the following season after being planted. As such, they seem to be prime targets of deer/vermin/slugs/snails and stuff.
My wife planted about 100 daffodils two years ago. Between the squirrels and the moles, fewer than 30 of them came up the year after she planted them... but about 10 of those 30 came up in the middle of the lawn or in flower beds where we didn't put them. This year, many of those wandering bulbs are coming up in twos and threes because they've split off. That may not be the world's most efficient breeding strategy, but it's enough to propagate the species.
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  #29  
Old 10-23-2009, 09:33 PM
lissener lissener is offline
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Originally Posted by Uncertain View Post
Botanists make this distinction too, but not in the same way you seem to be saying gardeners do. Inflorescences contain flowers. In fact a "sunflower" is actually an inflorescence. Each of the "petals" is really a specialized flower with five fused petals. And the middle part has lots of flowers that do the actual reproduction. Sunflower plants have infloresecences, but they also have flowers, which are part of the inflorescences. And they are, I imagine, insect-pollinated.
Yes I know. So do most serious gardeners. But they tend to use the terms differently in everyday parlance. Colloquially, we refer to the showier ones, the ones lay people know as flowers, as flowers. But we tend to refer to the flowering parts of a grass, for example, as an inflorescence. It's more a descriptive shortcut than a legitimate botanical distinction, of course, but as such it's useful.
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