This is our second spring in Nova Scotia and flowers have taken center stage again this year. I must admit that living in California most of my life I took fresh flowers for granted. After a long cold winter of beautiful white the colors of spring are welcome and admired. It is fun too see the succession of blooms as the season moves along. Each step of the way we bring new floral treasures home to examine and enjoy… and occasionally dissect.
Our guide has a great section in the front about flower anatomy to help us identify the flower parts. You can also find “worksheets” like this one online if you are interested in learning more about flower anatomy. Stefani also has a great section on flowers in the Book of Days (Spring Book 3).
Last spring during our research we found out that there are many ways to classify flowers but found the following flower types helpful for our purposes as beginning botanists: simple, composite and complicated. I wish I could remember the site or book where we found these three classifications but I did not write it down in my notes.
With our wildflower guide in hand we set out to find some good candidates for dissection.
After a walk around the yard we set the stage… cutting board, knife and guidebook.
We started out with a simple flower from our quince bush.
Simple flowers are defined as flowers with petals arranged in a circle with flower parts that produce seeds in the center of the flower.
We identified each part the best we could. The simple flowers are… well… simple. So the flower parts are much easier to find than in some of the other flowers we dissected.
After examining the quince we moved on to a composite flower. The first flower of spring in these parts, the dandelion.
A composite flower is defined as a flower with many tiny flowers or florets packed together. These include daisies and thistle and of course our dandelion.
In the dandelion each of the yellow “petals” is actually a flower. It was difficult to dissect each tiny individual floret but we could see some of the flower parts once we had an idea of what we were looking for. A Field Guide to Nearby Nature has a great drawing of the dandelion flower and helped us get a better idea of what to look for once we got them separated.
The complicated flowers we found this time of year are tiny and hard to dissect but we know bigger ones will be coming this summer.
Complicated flowers may be flat, round, shaped like funnels, beaks or umbrellas. Many grow in clusters called flower heads. Examples of complicated flowers include the everlasting pea, dutchman’s pipe plant, jack-in-the pulpit and the pink lady’s slipper.
Last summer we found many pink lady’s slippers and had the chance to investigate at that time. A beautiful and very interesting flower that we try to keep in the forest for regeneration.
There is so much to learn about flowers. Wikipedia alone has eleven pages of information covering everything from anatomy, to evolution, usage and symbolism.
Along with dissection we have also been pressing with our little flower press, making arraignments for our windowsill and continuing our pursuit of knowledge about our wild edibles.
Have you been doing any flower projects this spring?