Flowering plants are a diverse group of land plants. Also, termed angiosperms, these versatile plants can grow in many conditions and are present in practically every culture in the world. In fact, they make up about 90 percent of the plant kingdom. All flowering plants, save some grasses and specialized cultivars, produce some type of functioning floral organ. These flowers come in a myriad of shapes, sizes and colors contributing tremendous beauty to our world.
There are several types of flowering plants.
Annuals, or seasonal flowering plants, live for a year or less flowering for about four months. These plants are grown through seeds. They grow, flower, make more seeds and die. Biennials take two years to grow from seed to fruition. These plants are also seasonal and usually flower only in the second year of planting. In most cases, they die after blooming. Perennials are those flowering plants that last for many years, continuously flowering. Most take two years until they begin to bloom. Once planted, there is generally no need to replant. Some shrubs and trees also flower.
The time that flowering plants first appeared has long sparked the interest of the botanical world. Charles Darwin suggested that flowering plants first appeared on the earth about 130 million years ago, but research is still under way concerning their emergence. Examination of the development of seeds and embryos among early angiosperms has been helpful in understanding how flowering plants evolved from nonflowering gymnosperms. Nonetheless, when the first flowering plants did appear, they reproduced rapidly, gracing most of the earth with their delightful presence.
Flowering plants consist of four major parts: leaves, stems, flowers and roots. The flower produces the fruit, which contains the seed. Leaves are responsible for photosynthesis, a process that allows the plant to create its own food. Stems create a support system for the plant, transporting fluids from the roots to the leaves and flowers. Stems also store nutrients and provide a place to create new plant tissue. Roots absorb and store water and nutrients and also help anchor the plant in its growing medium.
In order to produce seeds, flowering plants must be pollinated. This can be done through self-pollination (within the same plant) or by cross-pollination (two different plants). In most cases, insects are responsible for the pollination of the plant. They are usually attracted to the flower petals by their bright color and sweet fragrance. Birds can also pollinate a plant in their attempt to drink the sweet nectar. Pollination can also take place by animals, people and the wind.
Flowering plants are important in more ways than one. Their aesthetic appeal adds beauty to gardens and floral arrangements. They also are a significant food source. Fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, herbs and spices almost all come from flowering plants. Coffee, tea, liquor and cola also come angiosperms. Linen, cotton, rope and burlap are all made from plant fiber. Some plants are useful in making commercial dyes as well in many prescription and over-the-counter drugs.