garden notes no 28, inside the lily

Here are the pollen laden anthers of a newly opened flower of Lilium longifolium. They are attached to a slender thread called a filament. (I’m writing this out to teach myself as much as you.) Together, anther and filament make up the stamen, the male part of the flower.  In the centre you can see the little lump of the stigma, which receives the pollen, which travels down inside the stalk-like style to the as yet invisible ovary. Stigma, style and ovary make up the carpel, the female part of the flower (which is also known as the pistil, although that’s not quite the same thing, because it seems that some flowers have more than one pistil fused together to make up the carpel but don’t worry too much about that.)

The array of diagrams that google offers to explain the parts of a flower often feature lilies because they make everything clear, though not usually as clear as Lilium longifolium which turns its face up to the world. Next is Lilium ‘White Heaven’ which I previously libelled with a spurious connection to the Kardashian building. Its long petals form a cloak. To see inside I had to stoop and look up.

Here you see the knobbly stigma, already stained with pollen from the as yet undeveloped stamens. And next is Lilium henryi. This kind of lily is known as a Turk’s cap variety. The stamens surround the central stigma and style.

 

Moving on a few days…

The petals have withered and some people think it’s all over, but it’s not: the male bits fall away, dead, but the female part is beginning to grow, pregnant with seed. Some authorities recommend cutting off the flower at this stage, to encourage the plant to put its energies into replenishing the bulb rather than producing seed, but then you’re left looking at a sorry amputation for the rest of the summer.       The shrunken stamens are drooping and fading,  and the stigma is a dark blob on the end of the long style. Inside the style was the pollen tube through which the pollen travelled to the ovary, the lively looking green cylinder, which has many tiny new seeds inside;  there are two of them near the top of the picture. The next photo shows more of the general picture, with flowers at different stages as they open one by one up the stem.

And here’s an evening primrose flower, just opened but with only a few hours to live. Here the stigma forms a cross, the stamens are a loose bundle. The seeds which will develop inside the hidden ovary will last through most of the winter and some of them will be eaten by birds.

The next picture shows the various stages in the life of an evening primrose: at the top the flower buds which open, several at a time, each evening for weeks; then the furled buds which will be open in an hour or so; then yesterday’s flowers with their withered petals; and going down the stem there are progressively older seed pods.

 

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