sunflower

The petals of a sunflower are actually each single-petalled flowers

the petals of a sunflower are actually each single-petalled flowers; a sunflower is actually a cluster of hundreds of flowers.

A pseudanthium or flower head is a special type of inflorescence, in which anything from a small cluster to hundreds or sometimes thousands of flowers are grouped together to form a single flower-like structure. Pseudanthia take various forms. The individual flowers of a pseudanthium commonly are called florets. The real flowers (the florets) are generally small and often greatly reduced, but the pseudanthium itself can sometimes be quite large (as in the heads of some varieties of sunflower).

Pseudanthia are characteristic of the daisy and sunflower family (Asteraceae), whose flowers are differentiated into ray flowers and disk flowers, unique to this family. The disk flowers in the center of the pseudanthium are actinomorphic and the corolla is fused into a tube. Flowers on the periphery are zygomorphic and the corolla has one large lobe (the so-called “petals” of a daisy are individual ray flowers, for example). Either ray or disk flowers may be absent in some plants: Senecio vulgaris lacks ray flowers and Taraxacum officinale lacks disk flowers. The pseudanthium has a whorl of bracts below the flowers, forming an involucre.

In all cases, a pseudanthium (inflorescence) is superficially indistinguishable from a flower, but closer inspection of its anatomy will reveal that it is composed of multiple flowers. Thus, the pseudanthium represents an evolutionary convergence of the inflorescence to a reduced reproductive unit that may function in pollination like a single flower, at least in plants that are animal pollinated.

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