Flowers are little touches of color that make the world a more beautiful place in which to live. Scientists will probably never catalog and study every flower in the world because there are millions of types of flowers. Flowers come in countless shapes, sizes and colors, and they exist in almost every kind of climate across the globe.
The purpose of a flower is to create seeds so that the plant is guaranteed to reproduce itself. Most flowers consist of three main parts. The stamens are considered the male parts of the flower. In general, the stamens produce pollen. The pistil is considered the female part of the flower. The pistil contains the ovary, and in the ovary is an ovule, an unfertilized portion of the plant which will become a seed after pollination. If pollen from the stamens comes in contact with the pistil, the ovule in the ovary will be fertilized, producing a seed. The petals are the colorful flower parts that make flowers so lovely to see. Petals attract insects, like bees, wasps and butterflies, to assist in pollination.
Flowers can differ in construction, color and shape. Some flowers are rounded bundles of colorful petals, while others are seemingly random shapes. The black bat flower of the tropical areas of Africa, South America and Madagascar oddly resembles a bat, with broad black petals and strange trailing “tentacles.” The flower known as the corpse flower has a huge, banana-shaped, vertical protrusion that can reach over eight feet in length.
The biggest flower in the world is the Rafflesia arnoldii. This flower can grow as large as three feet across. It is primarily found in the tropical rainforests of eastern Asia in Sumatra, Indonesia and Malaysia. The Rafflesia is a parasitic plant, existing on the nutrients and water provided by the host plant. This strange plant has no leaves, roots or stems. Although this flower is enormous, you still wouldn’t want to give it to someone as a gift. Not only do Rafflesia flowers weigh up to 15 pounds, they also emit an odor that is reminiscent of a rotting corpse to attract insects, which will help with pollination.
The world’s smallest flower doesn’t even look like a flower at all. Wolffia plant is the size of a candy sprinkle that you might find on top of a cookie or cupcake. These flowers are so tiny that the weight of a single flower is comparable to two grains of salt. This plant is sometimes called watermeal, since the plants look like clumps of cornmeal floating in the water.
Wolffia plants grow in the stagnant water of ponds, lakes and marshes. These flowers consist only of a microscopic pistil and stamen. Watermeal flowers produce the world’s smallest fruits called utricles. To get a sense of the beauty and perfection of this miniscule flower, you will have to have quite a powerful microscope.
Most flowers are not as strange looking as those of the watermeal plant and Rafflesia arnoldii. Common large flowers like sunflowers and zinnias give our world beauty and cheer. Smaller flowers, like baby’s breath and forget-me-not, prove that flowers don’t have to be big to be beautiful. Whatever the size, big or small, flowers can not only be beautiful, but interesting as well.