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What Is a Floret?

A classic example of a floret can be seen in a sunflower.
Broccoli bunches are made of florets.
When shopping, purchase fresh broccoli that is bright green with small, unopened florets.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2014
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A floret is a microflower which appears as part of a larger inflorescence. A classic example of a floret can be seen in a sunflower. Despite the name, a sunflower could be more accurately termed “sunflowers,” because it is actually a collection of tiny florets which all develop individually. A close examination of a sunflower will reveal the individual flowers, and people who have had the opportunity to watch sunflowers grow may have noted that the seeds tend to mature at slightly different rates because the development of the inflorescence is staggered.

In plant anatomy, the floret shows up in a wide variety of flowers all over the world, from disc-shaped sunflowers to long spiky inflorescences such as those seen on grasses. It can be useful to understand anatomical terms used in reference to plants when using things like biological keys, which use such terms as a shorthand when guiding people through the plant identification process. Helpfully, many keys provide illustrations of the terms they use which can be compared to plants to determine whether or not the term applies.

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The floret has become especially famous in the case of edible plants like broccoli and cauliflower. People actually eat the flowering part of the plant, which is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a “floret” even though it actually contains numerous florets. The plant is usually harvested before the flowers have a chance to mature; people who have seen old broccoli may have noted that the florets will start to open up over time.

For a plant, there can be some distinct advantages to producing florets. For one thing, the plant can make more of them, which will attract pollinators, and the production of numerous flowers also increases the chance that at least some of them will fully develop, be pollinated, and develop into seeds which will perpetuate the species. Conversely, a plant which puts energy into producing a limited number of flowers needs a higher percentage of the flowers overall to develop into seeds.

Florets are often arranged symmetrically and are of interest to mathematicians who study patterns and systems in nature. Artists are also sometimes interested in the patterns created by arrangements of flowers, and may utilize them in their work. It is interesting to note that several plants which produce florets, such as sunflowers and cauliflower, demonstrate Fibonacci patterns in the organization of their florets; it would appear that even nature has a plan.

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