Stamens and Pistils 101

by Ernie Bernard

Remember those pesky stamens and pistils from high school biology? A lot of us never could remember which was which. But a little knowledge of these two reproductive elements of flowering plants will enhance enjoyment of the park's bountiful growth of wildflowers.

The park supports a huge number of flowering plant species, more than 1,000. Some large, some small, some very tiny, these plants have several things in common. They are all members of the Kingdom Plantae (plants), Division Magnoliophyta, which includes all flowering plants.

The photos offer a review of these structures -stamens and pistils. The stamens produce pollen, the so-called "male" gamete, or sex cell.

The pistil is a bit more complex, made up of several parts; its actual reproductive structures are microscopic. But the whole pistil ("female" reproductive structure) is visible as a central part of the flower, surrounded by stamens. Some flowers even have multiple pistils, although this is less common than having only one.

The composites (Family Compositae) appear to deviate from this pattern because what most of us regard as a flower is actually a bouquet of flowers. However with a little observation, the hiker or casual walker can find many flowers that fit the pattern of pistil or pistils surrounded by a circle of stamens.

Down on the ground, in contact with solid earth or a wet meadow, a close look at the flower's structures is both lovely and enlightening.

See Stamens and Pistils 102 for more about how the pistil and stamen work together to create new plants and gift the hiker's eye with nature's colorful elegance and grace.

Incidentally the Latin plural for stamen is Stamina, a thread in the warp of human life spun by the Fates. It is of course also the English word meaning endurance.

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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