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Re: [aroid-l] What does inflorescence mean?

  • Subject: Re: [aroid-l] What does inflorescence mean?
  • From: "Leo A. Martin" leo1010@attglobal.net
  • Date: Wed, 04 Jun 2003 22:57:26 -0400

>> What does inflorescence mean?

> I know the flower of the A. Titanum is the
> largest inflorescence, but does that mean
> there is another flower that is larger in
> the world, because it is not categorized as
> an inflorescence?

"...adopted by Linnaeus for the manner in which flowers are arranged on the plant and hence for the flowers themselves considered collectively with their supports, this constituting a flower-bearing branch or system of branches with no ordinary foliage leaves between the flowers...."
- Stearns, WT. Botanical Latin, 4th ed., Timber Press, Portland, 1992, p 432.

A flower is a specialized structure normally including reproductive parts of angiosperms together with associated protective structures. Flowers may contain female parts only, male parts only, both kinds of parts, and rarely both male and female parts of a flower fail to develop. Individual flowers clustered together in a branching structure are called inflorescences.

Aroid inflorescences are composed of a central stem enclosed by a modified leaf. On the central stem are arranged many small to tiny individual flowers which are either male or female in most species.

The largest flower is that of Rafflesia arnoldii, a parasitic plant from the jungles of Indonesia, in the family Rafflesiaceae. It reaches a meter in diameter (39 inches.) It is pretty much impossible to cultivate, being a parasite. It stinks, is striped yellow and maroon, has vibratory hairs, and is carrion-pollinated, so most people on this list would find it quite attractive.

The second-largest flower is that of Stapelia gigantea, a stem succulent from southern Africa, in the family Asclepiadaceae, which has now been subsumed into the family Apocynaceae. It reaches 16" / 40cm in diameter. It is very easy to cultivate. It stinks, is striped yellow and maroon, has vibratory hairs, and is carrion-pollinated, so most people on this list would find it quite attractive.

By the above definition, the Titan is nowhere near the largest inflorescence in the plant kingdom. That distinction would probably go to palms in the genus Corypha, which are monocarpic, meaning they bloom once and then die. The inflorescence can extend more than 10 meters above the dying palm and shed tens of thousands of seeds the size of pigeon eggs.

Many Agave and Furcrea species (Agavaceae) have very large inflorescences, though not so large as Corypha.

Leo A. Martin
Phoenix, Arizona, USA

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