Floral symmetry: The geometry of plant reproduction
The flower is an astonishing innovation that arose during plant evolution allowing flowering plants also known as angiosperms – to dominate life on earth in a relatively short period of geological time. Flowers are formed from secondary meristems by co-ordinated differentiation of flower organs, such as sepals, petals, stamens, and carpels. The position, number and morphology of these flower organs imposes a geometrical pattern or symmetry type – within the flower which is a trait tightly connected to successful reproduction. During evolution, flower symmetry switched from the ancestral poly-symmetric (radial symmetry) to the mono-symmetric (bilateral symmetry) type multiple times, including numerous reversals, with these events linked to co-evolution with pollinators and reproductive strategies. In this review we introduce the diversity of flower symmetry, trace its evolution in angiosperms, and highlight the conserved genetic basis underpinning symmetry control in flowers. Finally, we discuss the importance of building upon the concept of flower symmetry by looking at the mechanisms orchestrating symmetry within individual flower organs and summarise the current scenario on symmetry patterning of the female reproductive organ, the gynoecium, the ultimate flower structure presiding over fertilization and seed production.