The world of botany, the study of plant-life, is filled with mystery and misconceptions, and one basic point of confusion is the distinction between flowers and plants. The plant world encompasses everything from blue-green algae to a towering oak, however a flower is simply the reproductive organs of a flowering plant.
The Plant Kingdom
The Plant Kingdom is divided into two basic groups, non-vascular plants, like moss and lichens, and vascular plants, which include flowering plants. Both groups have rigid cell walls, usually grow in soil and almost all use energy from the sun in a process called photosynthesis.
Plants and Reproduction
Non-vascular plants reproduce through spores. Vascular plants reproduction includes flowers, plant runners, bulbs and tubers that multiply underground, to plants that produce cones that in maturity, open and disperse seeds. Flowers are the most evolved reproductive system in the plant world, with separate male and female organs, however a flower is only part of a plant and does not have an independent life of it's own.
Flowers and Function
A flower is made up of four basic parts: sepals, petals, carpels and stamen. The sepal is the bud covering that unfurls to form the base of the blossom, the petals open and help attract pollinators like insects and butterflies. The stamen is the flower's male reproductive organ and it produces the pollen necessary for fertilization. The carpel is the female reproductive organ of a flower that, once fertilized, matures to produce fruit and seeds.
Flowers Bear Fruit
The covering of a seed produced by a flowering plant is categorized as a fruit, no matter what the signs say your local supermarket. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants are all technically fruits, since they are formed from a fertilized blossom of a flowering plant and they contain seeds.
Plant life first developed over 400 million years ago but it took more than a couple of hundred million more before the first flowers started to bloom. The exact date for the flowering plant is a matter of some debate, but a 125 million year old fossil found in China shows the clear imprint of a flowering plant.