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Diagram showing the parts of a mature flower. In this example the perianth is separated into a calyx (sepals) and corolla (petals)
Diagram showing the parts of a mature flower. In this example the perianth is separated into a calyx (sepals) and corolla (petals)

A tepal is one of the outer parts of a flower (collectively the perianth). The term is used when these parts cannot easily be classified as either sepals or petals. This may be because the parts of the perianth are undifferentiated (i.e. of very similar appearance), as in Magnolia, or because, although it is possible to distinguish an outer whorl of sepals from an inner whorl of petals, the sepals and petals have similar appearance to one another (as in Lilium). The term was first proposed by Augustin Pyramus de Candolle in 1827 and was constructed by analogy with the terms "petal" and "sepal".[1][2] (De Candolle used the term perigonium or perigone for the tepals collectively; today this term is used as a synonym for "perianth".[3])

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • les10 vid 3 tepal


I mentioned tepals in the lesson and here I want to show you an example of what I mean. So we have a lily flower and take a look at these petals on the lily; nice yellow petals. Well actually, this is for instance a petal, and this is actually a sepal. But they pretty much look the same don’t they? And that’s why collectively they are called tepals; t-e-p-a-l-s, which is a contraction of the two words. So the outside part are the sepals, the inside part are the petals; three sepals, three petals. But because they look so similar those are called tepals. Now just to look at the structure of the flower again, the three outside ones, the sepals, are attached to the calyx node. The petals are attached to the corolla node. Inside you see the anther and filament which make up the stamens and collectively they are the androecium and then we have a carpel which is made up of a stigma at the tip where the pollen lands, a style where the pollen grows, and in the base, an ovary.



A Lilium flower showing the six tepals: the outer three are sepals and the inner three are petals.
A Lilium flower showing the six tepals: the outer three are sepals and the inner three are petals.

Undifferentiated tepals are believed to be the ancestral condition in flowering plants. For example, Amborella, which is thought to have separated earliest in the evolution of flowering plants,[4] has flowers with undifferentiated tepals. Distinct petals and sepals would therefore have arisen by differentiation, probably in response to animal pollination. In typical modern flowers, the outer or enclosing whorl of organs forms sepals, specialised for protection of the flower bud as it develops, while the inner whorl forms petals, which attract pollinators.

Tepals formed by similar sepals and petals are common in monocotyledons, particularly the "lilioid monocots". In tulips, for example, the first and second whorls both contain structures that look like petals. These are fused at the base to form one large, showy, six-parted structure (the perianth). In lilies the organs in the first whorl are separate from the second, but all look similar, thus all the showy parts are often called tepals. Where sepals and petals can in principle be distinguished, usage of the term "tepal" is not always consistent – some authors will refer to "sepals and petals" where others use "tepals" in the same context.

In some plants the flowers have no petals, and all the tepals are sepals modified to look like petals. These organs are described as petaloid, for example, the sepals of hellebores. When the undifferentiated tepals resemble petals, they are also referred to as "petaloid", as in petaloid monocots, orders of monocots with brightly coloured tepals. Since they include Liliales, an alternative name is lilioid monocots.

Properties and shape

Terms used in the description of tepals include pubescent (with dense fine, short, soft hairs, downy), puberulent (minutely pubescent, hairs barely visible to the naked eye) and puberulous (dense covering of very short soft hairs). Tepal shape is described in similar terms to those used for leaves (see Glossary of leaf morphology).


See also


  1. ^ Augustin Pyramus de Candolle (1827). Organographie végétale, ou Description raisonnée des organes des plantes; pour servir de suite et de développement a la théorie élémentaire de la botanique, et d'introduction a la physiologie végétale et a la physiologie végétale et a la description des familles. Paris: Deterville. p. 503.
  2. ^ Augustin Pyramus de Candolle (1841). Vegetable organography; or, An analytical description of the organs of plants. 2. Translated by Boughton Kingdon. London: Houlston & Stoneman. p. 90.
  3. ^ Stearn, William Thomas (2004). Botanical Latin (p/b ed.). David & Charles/Timber Press. ISBN 978-0-7153-1643-6. p. 39.
  4. ^ Ronse De Craene, L. P. (2007). "Are Petals Sterile Stamens or Bracts? The Origin and Evolution of Petals in the Core Eudicots". Annals of Botany. 100 (3): 621–630. doi:10.1093/aob/mcm076. PMC 2533615. PMID 17513305.

Botany: A Brief Introduction To Plant Biology - 5th ed. Thomas L. Rost; T. Elliot Weier - Wiley & Sons 1979 ISBN 0-471-02114-8.

Plant Systematics - Jones; Samuel - McGraw-Hill 1979 ISBN 0-07-032795-5.

This page was last edited on 1 November 2018, at 22:57
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