petal

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petal, one of the four basic parts of a flower, next innermost organ from the sepal. The whorl of petals is known collectively as the corolla [Lat.,=little crown]. The number of petals is usually constant within groups (e.g., five in the rose family), as are the numbers of the other organs. Identification by number is, however, complicated by various factors; the petals may be fused, inconspicuous, or entirely absent, in which case their role as the showy part of the flower is sometimes supplanted by modified leaves, the bracts, as in the dogwood and poinsettia, or by modified stamens, as in the canna and the lady's-slipper. Selective breeding can produce petallike stamens (e.g., in cultivated roses and geraniums) and so-called double flowers, i.e., varieties with more than the normal number of petals. Petals are usually brightly colored and often secrete perfume and nectar (in nectaries at the base of the petal) that attract insects and birds needed for cross-pollination. When fertilization has taken place the petals usually drop off; however, in some flowers they persist (see everlasting). In general there are fewer petals and their fusion is greater as the evolutionary development increases. Radially symmetrical arrangement also gives way to bilateral symmetry or even asymmetry.

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pet·al / ˈpetl/ • n. each of the segments of the corolla of a flower, which are modified leaves and are typically colored. DERIVATIVES: pet·al·ine / ˈpetlˌīn; -in/ adj. pet·aled adj. [in comb.] pink-petaled trailing phlox. pet·al·like / -ˌlīk/ adj. pet·al·oid / -ˌoid/ adj.

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petal. Imbrication, petal-diaper, or scale-pattern ornament suggesting overlapping scale-like shapes. It represents roofing-tiles, as on the top of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, Athens (C4 bc), and was often found in Roman work, e.g. sarcophagi. Petal-diaper patterns occur in roofing and tile-hanging.

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petal One of the parts of the flower that make up the corolla. Petals of insect-pollinated plants are usually brightly coloured and often scented. Those of wind-pollinated plants are usually reduced or absent. Petals are considered to be modified leaves but their structure is simpler. Epidermal hairs may be present and the cuticle is often covered by lines or dots known as honey guides, which direct insects to the nectar.

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petal In a flower, one of the inner floral leaves, usually brightly coloured, and borne in a tight spiral, or whorled. See also COROLLA.

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petal Part of a flower. The petals of a flower are together known as the corolla. Surrounded by sepals, flower petals are often brightly coloured and may secrete nectar and perfume to attract the insects and birds necessary for cross-pollination. Once fertilization occurs, the petals usually drop off.

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petal XVIII. — modL. petalum, in medL. metal plate — Gr. pétalon lamina, leaf, sb. use of n. of adj. pétalos outspread, f. base pet-, as in petánnusthai unfold.