Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Characteristics of a Flowering Plant

By Sophie Johnson ; Updated September 21, 2017
Flowering plants: so beautiful to us and so necessary.
flowers image by Ergün Özsoy from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Flowering plants comprise the largest, most diverse group of plants on Earth, having populated most of the world--even the seas. As such, these "angiosperms," as flowering plants are called, are of great importance to human life, responsible for producing much of the oxygen we breathe, along with fruit, vegetables, herbs and seeds. They are producers within the ecosystem, while we are consumers.

Basic Parts

The leaves, stem--the branch--and flowers of a peach tree.
peach tree flower image by Lovrencg from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Flowering plants have five basic parts, recognizable to most anyone: roots, stems, leaves, flowers and seed-containing fruit. We eat all of these parts. For instance, carrots are roots, celery stalks are the petioles of leaves, broccoli florets are clusters of flowers and tomatoes are fruit. (Petioles are stem-like, connecting a leaf to a plant.)


Petals ring stamens, which ring a pistil on this flower.
stamen of a yellow flower image by Fotocie from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

The flower sets angiosperms apart from other members of the plant kingdom. It's the key to angiosperms' success in populating the earth, for the flower is the sexual reproductive part of a plant.

The parts of a flower are arranged in whorls or concentric rings. Each flower can have up to four kinds of parts. Petals and sepals are accessory parts. That is, they are important to a flower, but not necessary to create fruit and seeds. Stamens and carpels, on the other hand, are male and female parts, respectively, stamens responsible for pollen and carpels responsible for ovules.

Petals often serve a flower by attracting pollinators with scent and nectar. Sepals serve by protecting a flower while it's in bud. Stamens manufacture pollen, which pollinates the carpels of flowers, fertilizing them. Carpels are often fused together in a flower to form a single pistil.

Double Fertilization

Seeds sprout, ready to become new plants.
Mix of sprouts on a leaf image by Monika 3 Steps Ahead from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Angiosperms are unique in the plant world in their use of double fertilization. This characteristic means that pollen provides a carpal with two sperm instead of one. One of the sperms fuses with an egg to produce an embryonic plant, while the other sperm fertilizes a central cell in the ovary of the carpal. The result of this second fertilization is endosperm, which surrounds the embryonic plant in the seed and provides nourishment for it.


The drying remnants of flowers show on the bottom of these growing apples.
Apple Tree image by lefebvre_jonathan from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Fruits are only produced by flowering plants. They grow after fertilization, formed from the ovary and floral parts. You can see the ovary on a pea pod, for instance, since the pod itself is the walls the ovary.

The pea pod is known as a simple fruit, that is, one flower ovary forms one fruit. When a flower has multiple carpels and, therefore, multiple ovaries, aggregate fruits like strawberries result from each flower. When several flowers are close together and together form one fruit, that fruit is called a multiple fruit. The pineapple is such a fruit.


About the Author


Sophie Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media. A freelancer for more than 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews.