The Parts of a Lavender Flower
Photo courtesy of JoAnn Moon, [email protected]
Bracts and Bracteoles
Bracts and bracteoles make up some of the debris commonly found with lavender buds. Bracts are the green leaf-like or scale-like structures located just underneath the flower. Bracteoles are smaller or secondary structures. The shape and size of these bracts can be used to differentiate between the different species.
With some cultivars of lavender, bracts and bracteoles turn brown as the floral stem dries giving the buds a dirty look if not properly cleaned. With some cultivars of lavender, bracts and bracteoles retain their green color when dried.
What is the flower?
By definition, bracts and bracteoles are not part of the flower. The flower consists of sepals, petals, ovaries, stamens, and pistils. Many plants have green sepals located under colorful petals. With lavender, the sepals are fused into a tube-like structure as seen in the photograph above. Unlike many other plants, the sepals of lavender from which the fused petals emerge. With lavender, the sepals are of various colors from white, to pink, to blue, and various shades of purple. This fused group of colorful sepals is collectively referred to as the calyx.
When you purchase lavender flowers (also referred to as buds), what you are purchasing are the calyces (plural for calyx) of the flower, not the complete flower.
The petals (referred to as the corolla) has either dried and dropped off the calyx or is dried up inside this vase-shaped calyx. The photo shows corolla which has emerged from their calyces. The shiny hairs you see on the calyces contain the majority of the plant’s essential oil.
The Lavender’s Corolla is the result of the fusing of petals as shown in the photo. The stamens and stigma, the sexual parts of the flower, are housed inside the throat of the corolla and are not visible in this photo. When you harvest lavender for its buds, the corolla protruding from the calyces wither and usually drop off. Corollas still stuck to their calyces should be removed during the cleaning process. The lavender buds/flowers are calyces hopefully cleaned of their dried bracts, bracteoles, stems, and corollas.
The confusing use of the terms bud and flower.
We use the terms ‘bud’ and ‘flower’ to refer to the calyces. Using these two terms, while botanically incorrect, is much easier than trying to explain the concept of calyces.