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Which flower has the most peddles?
Question Date: 2013-04-17
Answer 1:

There is no simple answer to that. The scientifically correct answer is buttercups, although the common English (and scientifically incorrect) answer is sunflowers.

The family that has the truest petals is the buttercup family, the Ranunculaceae. Those flowers can vary in the number of petals, even within a species, but ten-twelve is a common number. However, in some of the more primitive flowering plants, the level of leaves just underneath the petals (the "sepals") are not fully distinguished from the petals (both are modified leaves). Some of these plants, such as the magnolia family, the Magnoliaceae, can have many more "petals" than the buttercups. Finally, there is the sunflower family, the Asteraceae (which includes daisies, thistles, etc.); their "petals" are actually miniature flowers that surround a large, central disk, which is in turn made up of a different kind of flower. Individual flowers of this family actually have only five petals, which are frequently fused into a single unit, but a single head of these flowers can itself contain hundreds or thousands of these individual, five-petaled flowers.

It is also of note that the sepals of the monocots (grasses, palms, lilies, and their relatives) are generally brightly colored and thus appear to be "petals", but they're not. If you look carefully, you will find that three of the brightly-colored leaves are above the other three; the three above are the true petals and the three below are the sepals. Look at an iris for one good example.

Answer 2:

This gets really complicated because of the nature of some of the more primitive types of flowers.

Flowers normally have two levels of petal-like structures, called whorls. The inner whorl, which we normally call petals, is brightly colored in most flowers, while the outer whorl, called sepals, is usually green. This is only true of the more advanced flowering plants, however; in lilies, both the sepals and the petals are brightly colored, and in magnolias, there are more than two of these whorls, all of which are brightly colored.

In advanced flowers, the number of petals per whorl is usually five, sometimes four, but in more primitive flowering plants, it's usually three (this is understood in lilies, and I've seen it in magnolias, too), assuming that you can even call what magnolias have petals (and not sepals, or something else). Your classic magnolia flower has three whorls of three parts each, so you could say that's nine, or just three, depending on your definition of what's a petal and what's a sepal.

Even more primitive flowers, like water lilies, don't even have their "petals" in whorls.

And then, you have the sunflower family, some of the most advanced "flowers", which aren't really flowers at all - each of the things on a sunflower or a daisy that looks like a petal is actually a separate flower, and the whole thing is a composite structure called an inflorescence. If you look closely at any of the "petals" of a sunflower, for example, you will notice five lobes - the five petals of the flower that it is, fused together.

And then you have conifers - pines and their relatives - which don't have flowers at all, but have cones that have a lot of the same characteristics of flowers.

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