Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?
When it comes to begonias it is usually easy to answer that one: the males are the most spectacular and attractive and the females are rather insignificant and are sometimes picked off!
I am talking about the flowers on the most common types of tuberous begonias. The plants carry both male and female flowers and the usual arrangement is to have one large, fully double flower in the centre, at the end of the stem and two female flowers, one on either side, jostling for space. They are smaller, have fewer petals so the branched stigma can often be seen in the centre, and they have a three-winged seed pod at the back. If you are serious about growing and showing begonias you will want to remove the female flowers as soon as you can because they take up valuable ‘energy’ the plant could be putting into its perfect male flowers and the two of them can gang up and push the male flower off – they certainly cramp its style! But in case you are female and thinking this all sounds a bit sexist and familiar, you can have a laugh because the males put so much effort into their appearance that they usually have no stamens so are sterile!
So I was looking at my Begonia carolineifolia yesterday* and having a good look at the flowers as I was picking up the dozens of dropped ones, and I noticed that the females are actually more showy than the males. The flowers start as pale pink buds and turn to blush white as they open and the males have just two petals (male begonias usually have two larger ‘clamshell’ petals and two smaller, inner ones) while the females have four or five petals of random sizes. And that seed pod at the back provides a bit of extra colour too. Male flower below.
Female flower below.
I hope these look better on your screen than on mine. I chose soft light because of their pastel colours but they look very grey (and noisy) on here!