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The source of floral chaos.

The source of floral chaos

Virtually all flowering plants display their blossoms in highly symmetric arrangements, spacing them evenly from top to bottom and left to right along each branch. Moreover, all flowers on a given plant tend to have the same number of petals, stamens and other parts. But on the honey locust, flower formation appears downright chaotic.

This tree's saucer-shaped flowers orient themselves haphazardly, vary unpredictably in size, and sometimes have inverted carpels, the organs that hold the female reproductive tissue. Electron microscopy of six species of honey locust -- a primitive member of the legume family -- reveals asymmetry even within unopened buds, says Shirley C. Tucker of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

Tucker proposes that the unruly flower formation stems from the locust's lack of bracts, the leaf-like sheaths that envelop most flower buds. Her comparisons of plants with and without bracts suggest that these structures orient individual flowers and establish their pattern of distribution. Noting that several other primitive trees also exhibit floral asymmetry, Tucker says studies of those species may help to verify the bract's apparent link to floral chaos.
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Title Annotation:flower formation in the honey locust
Author:Cowen, Ron
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 18, 1990
Words:185
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