It’s all in the Detail

The detail of plant structure has always fascinated me. When you think of the different forms of flowers and plants it’s mind-boggling. Just in the plants you might see in the UK (never mind all those in countries over the rest of the world) there’s an amazing variety, especially in our gardens.

In my own garden, I can, for instance, see the flower of a daisy near a passionflower. Or a rose and the lavender growing by it – such a range of shapes, textures and colours. These differences make for a more appealing garden and they make photography more interesting too.

The individual details of flowers entice me to capture them in a photograph. Here, with these zinnias, it’s the tiny yellow ‘disc florets’ that have opened in a ring around the flower centre (the ‘eye’). If you look at the photo below, you can see, tucked deep among the curving red bracts (‘paleae’ or chaff) there are more yellow disc florets waiting their turn to open. Each red palea is like a tiny flag, with a fine tip and a jagged-looking edge. They add an attractive texture and contrast to the other parts of the flower head.

centre of zinnia flower
The ‘eye’ of the zinnia flower head, showing the ring of disc florets and the red paleae in the centre.

As the zinnia matures, the shape of the centre of the flower head becomes more conical due to the growing seeds within. (As you can see in the top image.) The ring of open disc florets advances towards the tip of the cone as the older disc florets finish and the new ones open. This gives a different look from the flatter head of the immature zinnia and new photographic possibilities.

The photograph below shows a variation I hadn’t expected. This flower head has developed fasciation due to abnormal behaviour of the growing tip (perhaps because of damage, disease, genetics or environmental factors). As a result, there are two conjoined flower heads instead of the normal single. It just shows that you never know what you’ll find when you take a wander around a garden!

Zinnia with fasciation
Zinnia with fasciation