zinnia flower

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

27 thoughts on “It’s all in the Detail

    1. Thanks Liz! Double trouble indeed! 🙂 I think it may be the first time I’ve seen fasciation here – can’t remember any before. (Although I’ve seen some interesting examples elsewhere.) It certainly is both weird and intriguing.

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  1. I always enjoy finding examples of fasciation. They’re not common, but they show up often enough to keep me looking. Did this flower have the flattened stem that sometimes goes along with fasciation? It can take so many forms. Sometimes I get fooled and think I’m seeing fasciation when I’ve come across a different sort of variation, like ‘twinned’ flowers or extra petals. They’re all fun!

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      1. I don’t know either, Steve. There wasn’t a lot of detail in any of the information I could find and there seemed to be some disagreement between the things I did find!

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  2. Zinnias are so lovely, but so difficult to grow. I tried from seed last year and was successful to get some to germinate, but the S&S love them so I kept them in a pot on a chair so off the ground! Didn’t bother this year, too much fuss, but I like to photograph them if I see them.

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    1. I’m hoping that we’ll have fewer S&S after this year’s heat and drought – they do cause havoc with a lot of seedlings – so disappointing when that happens. We had a very welcome family of thrushes here this year. I hope they’re back next year. 🙂

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      1. Oh yes, I wish the other birds would eat the slugs! I’d occasionally hears the tap, tap, tapping of a thrush with a snail but not seen it until they appeared this year. The pond had brought the birds in for drinks and baths…such fun to watch!

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  3. The wonders that evolution has created are lovely to study and appreciate. It’s taken millenia for the various forms to develop and all Nature’s hard “work” offers us delights. Fasciation is always a grand surprise.

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    1. Me neither Jill – but I spend a lot of time with Google, trying to learn a little as I go along… 🙂 Sometimes I wish I’d studied botany but you can’t turn the clock back!

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      1. Our interests definitely change as we age, Ann. I have often wished I had known myself better when I was younger and would have pointed myself in another direction.
        But that’s hindsight, and we made the decisions we thought were right at that time.

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