Know your umbels from your panicles

Apr 25, 2015

Be more accurate when describing beautiful flowers to others. Following are a few flower form arrangements. Not pictured but familiar are Solitary (or single), having one flower per stem (tulip, crocus) and Spadix, the showy part is a bract or spathe, partially surrounding the male and female flowers inside. (calla, caladium)


Asteraceae - Aster amellus
Composite or Head – A daisy-type flower composed of ray flowers (usually sterile with attractive, colored petals) around the edge and disc flowers that develop into seed in center of the flat head (sunflower and aster)  On some composites, the ray and disc flowers are similar (chrysanthemums and dahlias)




Daviesia corymbosa corymb (9622954920)
Corymb – Stemlets (pedicels) arranged along main stem.  Outer florets have longer pedicals than inner florets giving the display a flat top. (yarrow, crabapple)





Panicle – An indeterminate flower with repeated branching.  It can be made up of racemes, spikes, corymbs, or umbels.  (begonia)







Pink Flowering Currant closeup, Ribes sanguineum s
Raceme – A modification of a spike with flowers attached to a main stem (peduncle) by stemlets (pedicel). (snapdragon, bleeding heart, Canterbury bells)







Spike – Flowers attached to main stem, without stemlets, bottom florets open first.  (gladiolus, ajuga and gayfeather)









Simple Umbel
Umbel (typical of plants in carrot family)
Umbel – Florets with stemlets attached to main stem at one central point, forming a flat or rounded top.  Outer florets open first.  (dill, onion, carrot family)








UC Master Gardeners of Napa County provide free home gardening advice. Visit, call or complete the Plant Problem Diagnosis Sheet  for assistance.


Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
UC Cooperative Extension 
1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa
(707) 253-4143

Photo credits:

By Mark Robinson from Williton, UK (Pink Cascades  Uploaded by Austin512) [CC BY 2.0 (httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons; - nursery- Cow_parsnip_Heracleum_lanatum_ umbel; By Jjron (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons panicle; By John Tann from Sydney, Australia (Daviesia corymbosa corymb) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons; © Hans Hillewaert /, via Wikimedia Commons;; Olaf Leillinger at 2006-02-26; License: CC-BY-SA-2.5 and GNU FDL