The function of any flower is to produce seeds that can ensure the survival of the species. Flowers come in many shapes, colors and sizes and have male and female parts. Flowers have special ways to adapt to adverse settings. Flowers are an important part of nature and of American culture, with each state possessing an official state flower, people using flowers for many purposes and animals establishing close ties to particular plants.
In the desert where the climate can make it impossible for a flowering plant to have a normal life cycle, many kinds of flowers make adaptations to survive. Some perennial flowers, which are flowering plants that grow back every year, have the ability to lie dormant until rain falls, such as the ocotillo. Other desert flowers are what botanists call ephemerals, meaning their seeds will germinate only when it rains and the temperature and sunlight are in balance. These flowers, such as the desert paintbrush, grow very rapidly, flower, go to seed and die, but their seeds scatter. This keeps the species going.
Sometimes a flower is too pretty for its own good. One example is the cardinal flower, a tall flower that typically grows along streams and in moist soil in many parts of the nation. It has brilliant red flowers on an erect stalk, and it stands out against nearly any background. The tube-shaped flowers are attractive to hummingbirds, which hover near them and drink their nectar. Although the cardinal flower is not a rare plant, in many areas it is now uncommon since people have picked so many of them.
Each state in the Union has a state flower, with some states sharing the same flower. The magnolia is the state flower of Louisiana as well as of Mississippi, a flower that grows on the magnolia tree each spring in the Deep South. Many state flowers are species that grow in one particular part of the country, so a state identifies with the flower, such as the bitterroot of Montana or New Mexico's yucca flower. The state legislature usually ratifies the choice of state flower, with some states actually staging heated battles over which flower will hold this honor. Indiana is one such state, with flowers such as the zinnia and carnation finally supplanted by the peony as the state flower.
Certain species of animals have close associations with a specific flowering plant. The goldfinch is a handsome yellow and black bird that has this type of relationship with the thistle. The thistle is a common flowering weed of pastures and fields that has many sharp spines on its stem and leaves to protect it. The goldfinch loves to dine on thistle seeds and by doing so scatters many of them, which enables the plant to take hold in other spots.
Many of the wildflowers in America were important plants for the Native Americans and early settlers. These peoples would use selfheal, for instance, to soothe sore throats. Chicory served as a sort of coffee substitute, while the roots of gentians had uses as a tonic. Jewelweed sap cures the rash caused by poison ivy, according to LearningHerbs.com.