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Fascinating Florets


The coloured bracts of a delphinium floret are the sepals. Looking at the back of a floret, you see that the uppermost sepal has a tubular backwards extension or spur. The petals form a separate cluster in the centre of the flower, that is commonly called the eye. The top petals have tubular spurs that contain nectar. These nectaries are normally hidden inside the spur of the top sepal. The petals surround the anthers and stigmas.
The wild delphinium species, D. trolliifolium, that grows near the Columbia river in Oregon and Washington State illustrates these features very well. There are five blue sepals, one with a long spur.

The top pair of petals are white with nectaries in their spurs. The lower pair of petals are blue and these are sometimes called 'honey leaves'. This plant had the prettiest flowers in a batch of seedlings and has particularly broad sepals and pure blue colour.

For a garden delphinium we like the sepals to be large and the eye to make a good contrast to the sepals, as in this named delphinium 'Oliver'.

As the result of chromosome doubling in the ancestry of such garden hybrids, this plant is tetraploid and has larger sepals and petals and more of them than a wild delphinium.

Delphinium flowers do not have to be like these examples and there are many fascinating variations on the theme in both delphiniums that grow wild and garden hybrids produced by plant breeders. The accompanying sections explore a selection of the variations that occur.
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