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This is getting more difficult now and will only get worse as the year progresses. I try to pick an obvious flower, something that will catch your eye as you are driving along or better still on a stroll in the countryside. There are still quite a lot of flowers about but many are sort of leftovers from earlier in the year. There is nothing obvious which you would associate with this month. The one flower which is fairly obvious although it was quite prominent last month as well is the white umbellifer called wild carrot (Daucus carota). To the uninitiated it looks like a short version of cow parsley, to which, indeed, it is related. It is very common in fields that have been left fallow or maybe harvested earlier in the year such as oil seed rape. It also grows quite a lot along roadsides although many of these have recently been cut back.

Wild carrot is an umbellifer which means it has its flowers grouped together in what is known as an umbell or  an umbrella shape. The idea behind this is that it makes it easier for it to get pollinated.

OK here come the Biology lesson…. I was a Biology teacher a long time ago and so it is easy to slip back into it. If you want to switch off now I will not be offended but if you are going to continue then sit up straight and pay attention. Incidentally if you want to check up on any wild flowers from this region I have a fairly extensive and ever improving gallery of photos on this site – just click https://poitoucharentesinphotos.wordpress.com/wildflowers-of-poitou-charentes/

Update; just seen another blog on Wild Carots from someone in America where they call it Queen Anne’s Lace. The blog is quite interesting and is at  http://thenatureniche.com/2012/09/10/queen-annes-lace/

The point of a flower is to produce seeds and thus it needs to get pollinated. Some do this by using wind power in which case they have no need to look pretty and smell nice. Others use insects or other creepy crawlies – even slugs and snails in some cases.

The simplest sort of flower is something like a buttercup. This consists of just one flower on the end of one stalk.

It works but from the point of view of attracting pollinating insects it would be better to have several flowers bunched together…. such as cowslips.

Some flowers plants have evolved to have all their flowers in one long spike such as  hollyhocks or, to give an example of a wild flower, the asphodel, which is beautiful and grows in the wooded ares of this region in the Spring. This is more efficient than the buttercup but it does mean that insects and other creatures have to work their way up and down.

It would arguably be better to have all the flowers out at the same time and arranged in a horizontal plane like an umbrella – the umbell of the cow parsley or wild carrot.There are lots of other plants that do this.

Now evolution takes another twist and moves towards having all the flowers in a more compact group so there are no gaps between which is where we arrive at flowers like dandelions and hawkweeds.

You may think a dandelion is one flower but you would be wrong. It consists, in fact, of about 50 flowers all scrunched up together and thus more attractive to the insects. This, however, causes a bit of a problem because having so many flowers all close together means the petals tend to get in the way of the stamens and the stigmas (the sexy bits) so it would be better if the petals were smaller. However these are what attract the insects to the flowers in the first place so you can’t get rid of them. So why not have some of the flowers do the job of attracting the insects/pollinators and others doing the reproduction  thereby dispensing with the need for petals.  This brings us on to flowers like daisies and sunflowers.

The sunflower is in fact hundreds of flowers but the flowers around the perimeter each have one large yellow petal which sticks out and looks nice especially if you are a bee. All the rest of the flowers are in the middle. These have pollen and stigmas and eventually produce the seeds. The outer flowers with the petals have by this stage given up on reproduction and cannot produce any seeds.

So there you have it- how flowers have evolved from what are called simple flowers into composite flowers. By the way if you look carefully at the individual flowers that make up the wild carrot umbell you will see that already at this relatively early stage in  flower evolution the outer flowers are already showing larger petals and the central flowers have much smaller petals.  Clever isn’t it!

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