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Inflorescence: what is it, types and parts

On many occasions, when we talk about flowers in terms of gardening or botany, the term inflorescence is mentioned. When talking about plants in a colloquial way, it is very common to refer simply to “flowers”. However, in a more technical environment, it will be usual to talk about inflorescences, especially with some species.

If you want to learn more about what inflorescences are and their different types, join us in this AgroCorrn article in which we clarify what an inflorescence is, its types and parts , as well as its differences with flowers.

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What is an inflorescence and what is its function

The flowers can be arranged in many different ways on the branches or the stem of the plants. The inflorescence is the way in which the flowers sprout and are arranged . Some may look like simple flowers, when in fact they are made up of many of them, as is the case with the daisy inflorescence.

And what is the function of the inflorescence ? Well, it is none other than precisely supporting the flowers . These, in turn, are a vital part of the plant’s reproductive cycle , being fully responsible for sexual reproduction. The flowers house the male and female sex organs of the plant. Each flower can have one of the two or both, in which case they are called perfect flowers, as they can be capable of self-fertilization. When pollen from male flowers fertilizes the pistil, whether carried by the wind, the elements or pollinating insects , the flower will eventually give rise to a fruit, which will contain one or more seeds, from which a new plant can be born.

Types of inflorescence

We can find different types of inflorescences . One of the most basic distinctions is found by seeing if it has a single flower, in which case it is a uniflora inflorescence , or has two or more of them, in which case it is a pluriflora. Furthermore, a pluriflora inflorescence can be simple or compound. The former are those that have exclusively first-order ramifications, while in the compound ones both the main axis and the lateral ones support more inflorescences.

There is also the question of what is a determinate and indeterminate inflorescence, two types that we distinguish below.

Simple cymose inflorescences

Also called determinate, open or defined, cymose inflorescences produce lateral flowers that are the same on both the main axis and the secondary ones that are born on the sides. In this type of inflorescences we must distinguish the monocasia from the dicasia.

Monocasia are those inflorescences in which the plant develops a lateral branch with flowers below the terminal flower. They can be simple, bostrices, drepanios, cinchinos or ripidia. The dicasia, on the other hand, are those inflorescences in which the lateral flowers are born from the armpits of two facing bracts.

Simple racemose inflorescences

Racemose inflorescences, also called closed, indefinite or indeterminate inflorescences, are those in which the apex does not end in flower, and can continue to grow almost indefinitely. All its flowers are terminal.

They can be a spike-shaped inflorescence, a raceme or raceme inflorescence, as well as a spicule, spadix, corymb, umbel or chapter.

Compound inflorescences

They are divided into homogeneous compounds, which are those in which the lateral inflorescences and the main one are the same, or mixed, in which they differ. Among them we find formations such as the spikelet of spikelets, the chapter of chapters or the cluster of spikelets, among others.

In addition, we have other special types of inflorescence, with special characteristics that cannot be grouped into the aforementioned types, such as the catkin inflorescence, the antela, the glomerulus, the verticilaster or the cyatium.

Parts of an inflorescence

Among the different parts of the inflorescence, the following four must be distinguished: rachis, rachilla, pedicel and peduncle.

  • The rachis is what we identify as the central axis of the entire inflorescence. It is attached to the stem by the peduncle. Bracts, the protective leaves, are also born from the rachis, from whose axils the flowers or inflorescences will be born.
  • The rachillae are the secondary lateral axes (or tertiary, quaternary, etc.) that arise from the central axis or spine.
  • The pedicel is the structure that arises from the rachis or rachilla and supports each flower.
  • The peduncle , as we have mentioned before, is where the rachis and the stem meet.

Difference between flower and inflorescence

It is common to wonder what the difference is between a flower and an inflorescence . The quickest and easiest answer is that the inflorescence can contain multiple flowers grouped in their flower structures.

It is common to think of flowers as typical garden flowering plants , or bulbous plants , with a single large flower emerging from a flower stalk. However, plants often group their flowers in structures under all kinds of forms, these being called inflorescences.

They are not exclusive terms, since a flower can be part of an inflorescence. We can also find cases in which the differentiation is not so simple. If we take as an example some species of the Potamogetonaceae family , we will find plants with floral structures that, apparently, are between two waters, without being single flowers or inflorescences.

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