At this time of year there are numerous flowers to be seen by the keen observer. Many are long lived, or come out in progression over a long period. Others bloom for a very short time - sometimes only for a few, vital hours in the season. Large, showy blossoms often dominate our attention while lesser, and often more interesting flowers go unnoticed.
For example, the small 'flowers' of poinsettia and bougainvillea escape the notice of most humans amid a mass of colourful, modified leaves called bracts. Similar instances are found among our indigenous flowers.
The colour of petals and often a strong scent are the main attraction for humans and animal pollinators alike. While we only appreciate the beauty of design and colour, the pollinators focus on the 'eye' of the flower. Rewarded by pollen and nectar, they are usually manipulated by the plant to transfer pollen from the anthers of the stamen to the stigma of the pistil.
In single-sex flowers the pollinators carry pollen from the male to the female flowers. Many of the intricate designs only cater for a specific pollinator at a certain time in a complicated routine for reproduction.
For a deeper appreciation of the flowers around us we need to look, like insects, at the eye of the flower in the centre of the colourful petals. There we will discover the vital and living part of the flower. The petals normally last only a few days or hours and may very soon be damaged or devoured but the reproductive parts in the eye persist and transform as fruit.
It is left to the reader to identify the few flowers shown of the hundreds existing in southern Africa. The object is to stimulate close observation of the fascinating centre - the eye - of flowers that bring us so much joy. You may need to arm yourself with a magnifying glass to appreciate some of the finer detail.
While on the subject - look at people around you in the same way. Like flower petals - lipstick, make-up and hairstyles soon fade, revealing the real person beneath. Look, rather, into the eye of those you meet, where you will see the soul within. Their true feelings will be shown through the eye.