Complete Flowers: Examples, Definition & Structure

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Derrick Arrington

Derrick has taught biology and chemistry at both the high school and college level. He has a master's degree in science education.

Biologically speaking, all flowers are not considered complete. In this lesson, we will learn what makes a flower complete and examine the structure of complete flowers. We will also view examples of commonly found complete flowers.

We also recommend watching Flowers: Structure and Function of Male & Female Components and Methods of Pollination and Flower-Pollinator Relationships

Definition of Complete Flowers

Biologists view flowers in terms of their structures. Some flowers are considered to be complete, while others are classified as incomplete. In order for a flower to be considered complete it must have sepals, petals, stamens, and pistils. Sepals are the leaf-like, usually green structures at the flower base. They function to protect the flower as it is forming. Petals are the normally colorful parts of the flower that function to attract pollinators. Stamens are the male parts of the flower that consist of the anther and the filament. Stamens function in producing pollen grains. Pistils are the female parts of the flower; they consist of the stigma, style, and ovary. The inside of the pistil is where fertilization occurs in plant reproduction. For a flower to be considered complete, it must have all of these parts.

Diagram showing all the parts of a flower.
A flower diagram.

Structure of a Complete Flower

As mentioned above, a complete flower must have stamens, pistils, sepals, and petals. In a typical flower, the carpels are attached in a ring formation at the top of the stem of the plant. The colorful petals are found inside the carpal and become fully displayed after development when the carpal opens. Inside the petal you will see the male and female parts of the flower. The male stamen looks like a long tube with a ball on the end. This tube is called the filament, and the ball on top is called the anther. Pollen forms in the anther as the flower prepares to reproduce. Flowers may have one stamen or many of them surrounding the pistol. Typically, in the center of the flower, you will find a thicker tube known as the pistil. The base of the pistil contains the ovary and is the place where pollen grains must travel to in the process of reproduction.

Examples of Complete Flowers

Complete flowers are very common - they are very successful at reproducing since they have all of the parts in one flower. Most likely, you are not far from a complete flower at this very moment. Some common examples of complete flowers include hibiscus, roses, pea plants, and tulips.

Many flower gardens across the country have beautiful Hibiscus plants. Hibiscus plants grow all over the world, and the flowers come in a variety of colors. If you look closely at the Hibiscus flower, you will be able to see the green sepals at the tops of the stem. Above the sepals will be the beautifully colored and fragrant petals. Sticking out from the center of the flower will be a long pistil. Growing from the sides of the pistil you will be able to see numerous stamens.

This beautiful Hibiscus flower with its long pistil has all the parts to make it complete.
Picture of a Hibiscus flower.

Roses are one of the most commercially sold flowers on the planet. They are also complete flowers. If you examine a rose, you will notice the green sepals that concealed the flower as it was developing. And if you carefully pull back the petals, you will find a central pistil surrounded by multiple stamens.

This cross section of a rose bud allows us to see all of the parts contained within the sepals as the flower forms.
An image of a rose.

The first plant extensively studied in genetics was the pea plant. One of the reasons that the famous geneticist Gregor Mendel studied the plant was because it is a complete flower. If you look closely inside the flowers of a pea plant in your garden, you will see all of the four required parts.

These pea plants, found in gardens all over, have complete flowers.
Image of pea flowers.

Tulips are famous all over the world. These popular flowers are also prime examples of complete flowers. The next time you walk by a tulip, if you look inside the petals, you will see a central pistil with stamens all around. If you look below the petals, you will also see the sepals.

A tulip like this is a perfect example of a complete flower.
An image of a tulip.

Lesson Summary

As you can see, complete flowers are very common. In order for flowers to be considered complete, they must have sepals, petals, pistils, and stamens. Common examples of complete flowers include hibiscus, roses, pea plants, and tulips.

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