Students don’t have to travel far to find exotic plants for study.  Common garden plants showcase wonderful specializations that students can enjoy discovering.  Ask them to examine pots of Begonias (which, as children, we called Gebonias), common in gardens and readily available at most garden centers.   

When they do closely examine Begonias, students will discover these plants make two kinds of flowers.  Some Begonia flowers are female, which means they have a pistil but no stamens.  The female flowers are easily identified by their winged ovaries, which form below (behind) the flower petals.

Other flowers, on the same plant, will lack the inferior ovary, as well as the other female accessories, the style and stigma.  These are male flowers, brandishing a cluster of yellow anthers.  The anthers, of course, produce pollen, which must get transported to the stigma of a female flower in order to allow sexual reproduction to proceed. 

So in a single plant, we find two kinds of flowers, male and female, a condition we call monoecious (which means separate sexes in a single household, i.e. in a single plant).   There are other groups of monoecious plants, notably corn, which produces pollen in flowers up in the tassels and pistils in flowers clustered along the mazorca (an “ear” of corn).  


Some more female Begonia flowers:

Begonia sp.
Begonia species from Vietnam
Begonia bipinnitifida

More male flowers:

Begonia squamulosa
Begonia species from Vietnam

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: