What Is the Difference Between Perfect & Imperfect Flowers?

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Flowers may be perfect or imperfect—regardless of their appearance.
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Flowers grow in a variety of shapes, sizes and scents. All flowers, however, have just one function—to help a plant reproduce itself. Whether a flower is "perfect" has nothing to do with its beauty.

Perfect Flowers

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Most flowers have both male and female reproductive organs. The stamen is the male reproductive part; the pistil is the female reproductive part. Flowers that contain a functioning male part and a functioning female part are referred to by botanists as "perfect."

Common Perfect Flowers

A lily is a perfect flower.
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According to the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, common perfect flowers include those of tomatoes, morning glories, snapdragons, petunias, lilies and irises.

Imperfect Flowers

Tulips are staminate flowers
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Botanists call flowers that contain only one sex organ "imperfect." If the stamen is missing, or under-developed, the flower is considered female. Such flowers are also called pistillate flowers because they have a developed, working pistil but lack a functioning stamen. Those flowers containing only a working stamen are called male, or staminate flowers.

Common Imperfect Flowers

Clematis is an imperfect flower.
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Among imperfect flowers, both pistillate and staminate flowers may grow on the same plant, or the staminate flower may be on one plant and the pistillate flower on another. The University of Illinois website lists squash, corn, clematis and begonias as species with pistillate and staminate flowers on the same plant. Species with staminate flowers on one plant and pistillate flowers on another include asparagus, spinach, willow and cottonwood.

references & resources

Elizabeth Layne

Located in the mid-Atlantic United States, Elizabeth Layne has covered nonprofits and philanthropy since 1997, and has written articles on an array of topics for small businesses and career-seekers. An award-winning writer, her work has appeared in "The Chronicle of Philanthropy" newspaper and "Worth" magazine. Layne holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from The George Washington University.