If I asked you to describe Encelia farinosa anatomy, where would you start? [Waiting for a response…] Ah! Compound flowers you say? That’s indeed a good starting point. So, what is a compound flower and what is the opposite of a compound flower?
Compound / Composite Flower
A compound or composite flower (aka pseudanthium) looks like a simple flower, but is comprised of a cluster of flowers (known as florets). These florets group together to form a single flower-like structure. Think of sunflowers and daisies. Like Encelia farinosa, they belong to the family Asteraceae.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Asteraceae is the capitulum. The capitulum, or flower head, includes ray florets (outside) and disc florets (inside). Accordingly, the outer “petals” are actually individual flowers (ray flowers) containing their own stamens and/or pistils. Though, in the case of Encelia farinosa, the ray florets are…sterile. And the center of the compound flower is a cluster of disc flowers, each of which produce their own seeds. Depending on the compound flower, you could have hundreds or even thousands of individual flowers! (That’s from Wikipedia, I can’t think of a compound flower with thousands of individual flowers…maybe certain sunflowers?!)
But to accurately depict Encelia farinosa anatomy, you gotta look at its phenology. Part of phenology is looking at the different stages of the flowers. The nice thing about Encelia farinosa is that you can see most, if not all, the various stages of ray floret and disk floret development in a single plant. While I haven’t found a document differentiating the various stages of Encelia farinosa disk florets, I found a study on Senecio vulgaris. In the study, the authors break down the capitulum development into eight stages. Eight stages!
As you can see, understanding flower anatomy is a huge part of flower design construction. Even if our design looks modern and somewhat abstract, we strive for botanical accuracy. The Encelia farinosa design saw many, many revisions. From defining the spiral of the disk florets to the number of stages depicted in the design. But that’s for another article…