Perfect Flowers: Definition, Diagram & Examples

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Flower lovers everywhere may have trouble distinguishing a perfect flower, because to them, all flowers show some level of perfection. But this term means something specific in the botanical world. Read this lesson to learn what makes a flower perfect.

What Is a Perfect Flower?

Amateur botanists may see perfection in any flower, but there is a specific meaning to the term perfect flower. A perfect flower is one that has all three of these traits:

  1. It makes and distributes male gametes
  2. It makes female gametes
  3. It receives male gametes

What is a gamete? A gamete is a sex cell that will unite with another sex cell during the process of sexual reproduction. In this example, gametes are either male or female and look to pair with the opposite type (male cells look for female cells and vice versa).

Flower Anatomy

So, a perfect flower produces both male and female gametes (sex cells). Let's take a look at what this really means.

In the flower world, the male reproductive structures are called stamens, and the female reproductive structures are called pistils. The stamens are made up of two parts: the anther and the filament. The anther is the part of the stamen that produces pollen. Pollen is the max gamete, or sex cell. The filament supports the anther to make pollen available to insects that aid in cross-pollination.

The pistils (remember, these are the female structures) are made up of three parts: the stigma, the style, and the ovary. The stigma is the part that catches the pollen. The style is a tube where caught pollen is transferred from the stigma to the ovary. The ovary is located at the base of the style and this is where eggs (the female gametes, or sex cells) are produced and can combine with the pollen when it's present. When the male and female gametes combine, they form a fertilized seed.

A diagram of a perfect flower, with both male and female reproductive structures labeled.
Perfect flower

Because a perfect flower has both the stamens and the pistils, it is capable of producing its own fertilized seed - it's like sexual reproduction without requiring a partner!

Self-Pollination Vs. Cross-Pollination

When a flower has both male and female reproductive parts and can create its own fertilized seed, it is capable of self-pollination, meaning it doesn't require gametes from another plant to reproduce. Some perfect flowers depend entirely on self-pollination.

On the other hand, some perfect flowers are capable of self-pollination but they still try to avoid it. Instead, they rely on cross-pollination, usually aided with the help of insects like bees. In cross-pollination, an insect will visit a flower and pick up pollen that usually sticks to it. When the insect flies to the next flower, some of that pollen falls off. If it falls off in the vicinity of a pistil and there is an egg waiting in the ovary, then that egg can become fertilized and a seed will develop.

Insects like this fly help cross-pollination take place.
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