Botany 101

There I was, walking a lovely woman through my garden- giving her a tour through my roses when she asked me a question. "What is this part of the bud called?" Me: "Umm.....I forget...." I was, once again, faced with my appalling lack of knowledge about botany. Sure, I'm well experienced with the names, care and tending of plants, but the science of plants? Botany? I've always been embarrassed by the gaps in my knowledge in that area. So...

Here's what I (re)learned recently:

The particular part of the bud that my friend asked me about was a sepal, which collectively make up the Calyx. Sepals typically function as protection for the flower in bud, and often as support for the petals when in bloom

The rose in question (Madame Hardy) happens to have unusual Sepals, like so:

More commonly, sepals (for example, on Buff Beauty) look like this:

Since sepals evolved to protect the petals of the bud, similar to the way that eyelids and eyelashes protect the eye, so I like to imagine that Madame Hardy- of the fancier sepals- originated somewhere where she needed extra protection against marauding insect attacks or other dangerous foreign objects flying about. The reality is more likely that some rose breeder saw a rose that had a little extra on it's sepals and decided to breed a rose to accentuate that feature. Or maybe there is a third, more correct theory...! I think Madam Hardy's sepals are lovely and I'm glad to have her in my garden. Easy on the eyes and she's a pretty good botany teacher!

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