Identifing Different Flower Structures

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As you become more familiar with flower gardening, you will hear various flower parts names that may get confusing.  Here are a few photographs to help understand the most often talked about structures of flowers.





The heads of a composite flowers consists of 2 types of petals. The ray florets are the outer, strap-like petals that surround the disk florets. The disk florets are made up of tiny tube-like petals in the center. Some flowers only have disk florets like the Globe Thistle or Echinops sphaerocephalus.

Common Composite Flowers
  • Zinnia
  • Sunflower
  • Aster
  • Dandelion






The Iris Flower has a very distinctive structure with it's flower parts in threes. Tepals are the outer whorl of a flower and in the case of the iris, it has inner tepals (called standards) and outer ones (called falls). The haft is the narrow constricted part on a petal towards the center and the beards appear on the haft of the falls.  Not all Iris have beards, but all consist of a set of 3 standards, three falls and 3 hafts.








Bracts are common structure. They are modified leaves that form an involucre or covering that surrounds the base of flower or flower head. They are sometimes confused with petals because they are brightly colored as in a Bougainvillea or Dogwood. In many cases, the bracts are most noticeable right before a flower blooms and you will see it as the protective covering around the bud.

Some common plants with bracts
  • Thistle
  • Bachelor Button
  • Pine (Cones)
  • Poinsettia






The spathe is a modified, hood-like bract surrounding or enclosing a spadix. The spathe is often large and colored. The word spathe is Greek for broad blade. The spadix is a fleshy, spike-like stem of tiny flowers.

Some common plants with spadix
  • Jack in the Pulpit
  • Calla Lily
  • Cattails (Cones)
  • Peace Lily







Spurs are another common type of petal structure common in flowers. Spurred flowers are a flower with a petal modified to form a hollow projection. This spur often contains nectar for visiting pollinators.

Common Spurred Flowers
  • Columbine
  • Delphinium
  • Nasturtium
  • Jewelweed