Flowers: Structure and Function of Male & Female Components

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  • 0:05 Quick Review of Flower Types
  • 0:59 Complete vs.…
  • 2:42 Male and Female Components
  • 5:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Weber

Danielle teaches high school science and has an master's degree in science education.

In this lesson, we'll look at the parts of a flower and learn their functions. These natural beauties provide indispensable services to the plants they adorn.

Quick Review of Flower Types

Types of plants that have flowers
Plants that have Flowers

Flowers serve several purposes in our lives. You may think of giving flowers to friends or loved ones to show them that you care or that you are sorry. However, flowers serve many vital roles for plants. Let's look at the roles that flowers play as well as their male and female components.

As we look at the parts of a basic flower, we will look back at this diagram. Before getting into the parts of the flower, we first need to review which types of plants have flowers. You may remember that plants are divided into several groups. The first division was vascular and nonvascular. Nonvascular plants do not have flowers. Vascular plants were divided into gymnosperms and angiosperms. Gymnosperms also do not have flowers. That means that only angiosperms have flowers. Both divisions of angiosperms - the monocots and the dicots - have the same basic structures in their flowers.

Complete vs. Incomplete Flowers

Flowers can be described as either complete or incomplete. Complete flowers are those that have all four whorls of parts, while incomplete flowers are those that lack one or more of the whorls. These definitions may leave you asking 'What are whorls?' In flowers, there are different layers of parts that are described as whorls. There are four possible whorls, including the calyx, corolla, androecium, and gynoecium. Let's look at each part more closely.

A flower needs four whorls to be considered complete.
Complete and Incomplete Flowers

The calyx is the outermost whorl that protects the flower. The calyx generally contains flat structures that protect the flower when it is a bud or before it blooms. These structures are called sepals. This part of the plant is considered sterile because it does not contain any reproductive structures. Let's go back to our diagram and label the calyx. We can see in the first part when the flower is still in bud that the calyx - containing the sepals - surrounds and protects the bud. However, when the flower is in bloom, the sepals are less obvious and are generally below the bloom.

The whorl directly inside the calyx is called the corolla and may be the most familiar part of the flower. The corolla contains petals. When you think of flowers, you most likely either think of petals or allergies. We'll get to what causes allergies shortly, but the petals make up the second whorl of the flowers. The purpose of petals is to attract pollinators. The color and style of the petals on a flower help indicate the type of pollinator it is trying to attract. For example, flowers that attract pollinators such as hummingbirds are often bright red, but those flowers that attract pollinators such as bees are blue or yellow. Let's label the corolla on our diagram.

Male and Female Components

The last two whorls contain the male and female parts of the flower. Remember that if one of these whorls is missing, the flower is considered to be incomplete. However, if it contains all four parts - including both the male and female parts - then the flower is complete.

Let's first look at the male parts. The whorl that contains the male parts is called the androecium. Knowing the roots of this word will help you remember that it contains the male parts. The Greek word 'andros' means 'man,' and the word 'oikos' means 'house.' When these are put together, 'androecium' literally means 'man house.'

Female parts found in the carpel
Diagram of Carpel Parts

The main structure in the androecium is called the stamen and is the male structures in the flower. The stamen is made of two parts: the filaments and the anthers. The filaments are the slender stalks of the stamen seen here. The anther is the top of the stamen and contains pollen. We can see the anther here on top of the filament. When you look at a flower, the anthers often appear a yellowish color because they contain pollen. This pollen is often what causes allergies or can just make you sneeze if you sniff a flower too closely. Let's label the androecium on our diagram. We can see the stamen with the filament and anther within this whorl of the flower.

The innermost whorl contains the female parts and is called the gynoecium. Again, let's look at the root words. The Greek word 'gyne' means 'woman,' and we already know that 'oikos' means 'house.' So, the word 'gynoecium' means 'woman house.' There are several female parts in the flower, so let's look at these more closely.

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