Field of Science

Flowers - a cosmic, comic interpretation

Imagining how our customs appear from an alien perspective is always a great comic device, so this cartoon is pretty funny, and a good introduction to SMBC Comics (Saturday morning breakfast cereal, in case you didn't know).  Some of our flower customs are pretty ancient; apparently Neanderthals were buried with bundles of flowers.  However, no matter how amusing, TPP remains annoyed by the idea that floral parts are plant genitalia.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  The gaudy floral parts are largely sterile, modified leaves with a function of attraction.  The other parts are sporophylls, modified leaves bearing sporangia, a form of asexual reproduction.  This rather carries the wrong message doesn't it?  Sterility and no sex involved.  But clearly giving the focus of your affection a vial of pollen (Look at all those virile haploid male plants!) may send the wrong message.  Of course the plant genitalia misconception is also very long standing as are the very wrong labels derived from this misconception (gynoecium, androecium, ovary, ovule).  So every semester TPP girds his loins to battle once again such misconceptions, generally losing out to in some cases to the "I don't care if it's wrong, it's how I know it" complacency.  HT to a Million Gods

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