I am Just confused whether solitary means single flower in the whole plant or one flower on one branch of the plant?

  • $\begingroup$ only 1 flower in 1 inflorescence $\endgroup$ Oct 12, 2016 at 5:14

2 Answers 2


Solitary flower means one flower at a specific position of a plant. It usually accompanies with another word either terminal or axillary.

Soliary terminal means a flower present at the apex of the main stem or its branches. e.g. Trillium grandiflorum.

Image1 Image taken from http://ohioplants.org/inflorescences/

Solitary axillary means a flower arising from the axil of a leaf. e.g. China rose.


Image taken from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:China_rose.JPG

Image3 This is Sida rhombifolia. This picture is clearer.

No. It doesn't mean that a plant has a single flower.It speaks all about the position of the flower. Think of roses , they are solitary terminals and are in numbers in each plant, always growing at the apices of branches.

Source: My two years of learning Botany as an additional Undergraduate subject.


Short answer:

Solitary flower could be single or many flowers in a branch. How many flower is in a 'branch', That is not the concept of solitary flower. The concept is about 'how many flower is there in an inflorescence (branches specialized for flowers)'

Solitary flower a flower NOT in a "inflorescence" (Cluster of many flowers together). Or in another sense, Solitary flower is an inflorescence made up of only 1 flower.

The complete terminology is: "inflorescence with solitary flower".

Long answer:

To understand what is an inflorescence with solitary flower, you need to look for what is NOT an inflorescence with solitary flower.

User @SanjuktaGhosh gave beautiful examples of solitary flowers, so I gave example of only what is not that.

Brassica inflorescence,

Brassica inflorescence (Raceme, which is racemose).

(Source http://hasbrouck.asu.edu/imglib/seinet/Brassicaceae/photos/Brassica-nigra-F-web-N1544_tn.jpg).

Foeniculum sp. inflorescence

Foeniculum sp inflorescence (compound umbel, which is cymose)

(Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a5/Foeniculum_vulgare_C.jpg/320px-Foeniculum_vulgare_C.jpg)

We can see now, 'inflorescence' means specialized stem axis/ branches, containing mainly flowers (and some bract leaves). In nature, flowers usually occur in such specialized stems, and look like 'cluster' (many flowers together)

But what if a flower occur NOT in such cluster? rather solitary, at clear distance, and the axis on which flower borne, is not distinctive from the rest plant-body?

We couldn't see any 'inflorescence'; however it is considered as an inflorescence with only 1 flower, and from growth-pattern it is a subset of cymose-inflorescence (since the only-bud is the top-bud of the stem going to be flower)


  1. what we've been taught

  2. College Botany/ VOL-1/ Gangulee, Das, Datta/ New Central Book Agency

  • $\begingroup$ Feel free to write explanation behind downvote. As well, I gave picture of what is NOT a solitary flower, so that the asker can understand from-where the concept of solitary flower came. $\endgroup$ Oct 12, 2016 at 8:34
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    $\begingroup$ Inflorescence itself means a group of flowers arranged on a stalk. So writing "The concept is about 'how many flower is there in an inflorescence (branches specialized for flowers)" is wrong. Besides "only 1 flower in 1 inflorescence" is incorrect.That's why I downvoted your answer. $\endgroup$
    – Tyto alba
    Oct 12, 2016 at 9:56
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    $\begingroup$ Probably you are considering 'Solitary flower could not be an inflorescence'. Have I understood? However, what we've been taught solitary flower as a subtype of cymose or definite inflorescence. The above mentioned textbook says "When the apical or axillary bud forms a single flower, it does not form a real 'inflorescence' but this type is better included within the 'definite' group as further development is limited. In China-rose, the stalk of the flower can be distinguished into a peduncle (axis) part and a pedicel (stalk) part with an articulation between the two". $\endgroup$ Oct 12, 2016 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ May be you are right. I've too seen that somewhere. I'll edit my answer after referring to my Studies in Botany. Well I've removed my downvote. $\endgroup$
    – Tyto alba
    Oct 12, 2016 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ Its Ok thank you very much however at any time you feel free to downvote if you found something wrong. However Colg. Bot. kept space that, it is not true-inflorescence where Studies (V1) directly classifies it in cymose. Also thanks for mentioning an example of terminal cyme. I was not aware of that. $\endgroup$ Oct 12, 2016 at 13:52

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