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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.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



in flowers, the inner circle of small leaves (petals) of a double perianth. Petals forming the corolla may be free, separate (polypetalous corollas) or united (gamopetalous corollas, which have developed in the course of evolution from the polypetalous ones). The corolla is the most noticeable part of the flower, and in speaking of flowers one usually has in mind the corolla. The color of the corolla depends mainly on special pigments (anthocyanins and flavones) dissolved in the cell fluid. The biological role of the corolla is to make the flower more noticeable to insects that carry out cross-pollination of plants and to protect the stamens and the pistil. In the process of plant evolution the corolla developed from modified stamens that had lost their anthers or (more rarely) from top leaves. The endless variety of corollas in shape, detail of structure, color, and the like is a valuable aid in the taxonomy of plants.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Collectively, the petals of a flower.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


the petals of a flower collectively, forming an inner floral envelope
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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