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Of course some plants rely on the wind to distribute their pollen, which means they can dispense with showy flowers; but usefulness to animals/humans still helps their case - the cereals are the most obvious example.  Some species, like Fuchsia, back both horses.  Showy flowers encouraged man to take it from South & Central America and spread it around the planet and to attract insects wherever it happens to be.  But as a back-up it also hangs its stamens and stigma well outside the petals to catch the breeze – just in case the local insects are a bit slow on the uptake.

‘Inside the Flower’ is dedicated to understanding and appreciating the structure and function of flowers and flowering plants, mainly ornamental, but also some food crops, and to studying what determines the way they grow, and how they function.  It is not a world botany manual, but concentrates on the cultivated plants that you might find in an English garden or cool greenhouse.  That does not necessarily mean ‘native’ species (however you interpret that) because many of our most common garden plants are immigrants: tulips came from Asia Minor; Magnolia from the Himalayas; Chrysanthemum from China; but all are accepted features of an English garden.

What we grow in our gardens is subject to fashion.  In the 1950s, a bed of scarlet Salvia splendens surrounded by alternating white Alyssum and blue Lobelia was considered the height of chic.  But there was less available then, and maybe people wanted the bright, unsubtle colours as a reaction to the drabness and privations of the ‘40s.  Now we’ve moved on, and plants that would have been considered impossibly exotic fifty years ago have become commonplace.  We have begun to appreciate that England, with its cool summers, plentiful rainfall and relatively mild winters (usually) is an ideal gardening climate.  In response, seed catalogues and garden centres offer a much more adventurous range of plants.  Plant breeders have latched onto this and are developing hardy cultivars of species that were previously tender - the ‘Headbourne’ hybrids of Agapanthus are a good example.

Over the next few years, ‘Inside the Flower’ will develop to look at the cell structure of plants, but to start with, let’s consider a range of garden flowers.  It’s an eclectic and fairly arbitrary mix, mostly, but not entirely, from the author’s small urban garden in the East Midlands.  At the moment, the list (grey panel, left) is short, but it will grow.

Site Organisation

The plants discussed in this site are arranged by their taxa, i.e. by the classification families to which they belong.  The problem here of course, is that the ‘experts’ keep changing their minds about the classification of many species, and sometimes even their names.  It’s the sort of thing that causes blood to be shed in the quadrangles of academia, as learned worthies feud about the fine details of the taxonomy of this or that - details that may be totally arcane to the rest of mankind. 

Consider the ‘Bluebell’ (as the term is used in England that is - in Scotland it refers to something totally different and in the USA to something different again).  Within the author's memory, the Bluebell has had at least three names: Endymion non-scripta, Scilla non-scripta and Hyacinthoides non-scripta.  As for where it belongs, there are those who would include in the Liliaceae (lily family), whereas others say it belongs in the Hyacinthaceae (the Hyacinth family - which from its appearance, seems to make more sense).  There are even those who would put it in the Asparagaceae. The family to which it belongs (for most people) - the Hyacinthaceae – has itself had a rough ride: some say it is merely a sub-family of the Liliaceae while some others would deny it exists at all.

So there’s lots of scope for argument.  On ‘Inside the Flower’ we regard classification simply as a convenience rather than something to go to the stake for.  We shall run with the herd and adopt the current majority concensus.

The site is divided into two main sections: the first consists of photographs, highlighting the flowers rather than the vegetative parts of the plants, together with notes on the peculiarities or history of the species; the second concentrates on plant microstructure.  The images you will see on a page are normally a low resolution miniature - click on them to see the full resolution version.

In addition, there is a Glossary of specialist botanical terms complete with illustrated examples (click on the icon below).