I got a botany lesson today. Turns out my Sexy Red Maple post contained errors, which I will now attempt to correct. (Many thanks to my botanist friend Suzi for setting me straight.)
I had assumed that the red parts were stigma and the yellow parts anthers. It turns out there are some very small red parts that ARE stigma. But the majority of the “red thingies” are actually anthers. When the pollen is mature, they will burst open to reveal the yellow pollen.
She also confirmed cestoady’s comments on the meaning of “structurally perfect”. Each flower does contain both male and female parts, but in varying degrees. A “male” flower will still have an ovary – but it may not function.
There are more fascinating and complex behaviors, too. It is not advantageous for flowers to self-pollinate as this doesn’t offer variety for the gene pool. So the male and female parts may develop at different rates. For example, perhaps the female parts on one tree won’t be ready to accept pollen until the male parts have already dispersed theirs…
As an Audubon student once said to one of our naturalists, “Plants are wicked cool.”