Inflorescence development in petunia: through the maze of botanical terminology

R. Castel, E. Kusters, R.E. Koes

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Flowering plants have developed many ways to arrange their flowers. A flower-bearing branch or system of branches is called an inflorescence. The number of flowers that an inflorescence contains ranges from a single flower to endless flower-clusters. Over the past centuries, botanists have classified inflorescences based on their morphology, which has led to an unfortunate maze of complex botanical terminology. With the rise of molecular developmental biology, research has become increasingly focused on how inflorescences develop, rather than on their morphology. It is the decisions taken by groups of stem cells at the growing tips of shoots, called meristems, on when and where to produce a flower or a shoot that specify the course of inflorescence development. Modelling is a helpful aid to follow the consequences of these decisions for inflorescence development. The so-called transient model can produce the broad inflorescence types: cyme, raceme, and panicle, into which most inflorescences found in nature can be classified. The analysis of several inflorescence branching mutants has led to a solid understanding of cymose inflorescence development in petunia (Petunia hybrida). The cyme of petunia is a distinct body plan compared with the well-studied racemes of Arabidopsis and Antirrhinum, which provides an excellent opportunity to study evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) related questions. However, thus far, limited use has been made of this opportunity, which may, at least in part, be due to researchers getting lost in the terminology. Some general issues are discussed here, while focusing on inflorescence development in petunia. © 2010 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2235-2246
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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