Oops-a-daisy! How many flowers do you see?

How many flowers do you see in the photo below?

Marlborough rock daisies (Pachystegia insignis). Photo credit: Lara Shepherd

Marlborough rock daisies (Pachystegia insignis). Photo credit: Lara Shepherd

Two is the obvious answer, but there are far more than two flowers in the picture. Each daisy ‘flower’ is actually made up of numerous tiny flowers, also called florets.

The Marlborough rock daisies pictured above have two types of florets. Around the outside are ray florets. Each ray floret has a single broad strap-like petal.

In the centre are the yellow disc florets, which have very reduced petals. The ray and disc florets grouped together look like the single flower found in many other flowering plants.

Marlborough rock daisy disc floret (top) and ray floret (bottom). Note the long petal on the ray floret. Photo credit: Leon Perrie

Marlborough rock daisy disc floret (top) and ray floret (bottom). Note the long petal on the ray floret. Photo credit: Leon Perrie

Such clusters of florets, called capitula (singularly, a capitulum), are typical of species in the daisy family. Other members of the daisy family include sunflowers, lawn daisies, lettuces and chrysanthemums.

Next time you find a daisy in the lawn or someone gives you a bunch of sunflowers, take a closer look.

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