Anomalous flowering of the Antirrhinum majus mutant squamosa (squa) is characterized by excessive formation of bracts and the production of relatively few and often malformed or incomplete flowers. To study the function of squamosa in the commitment of an inflorescence lateral meristem to floral development, the gene was cloned and its genomic structure, a well as that of four mutant alleles, was determined. SQUA is a member of a family of transcription factors which contain the MADS-box, a conserved DNA binding domain. In addition, we analysed the temporal and spatial expression pattern of the squa gene. Low transcriptional activity of squa is detectable in bracts and in the leaves immediately below the inflorescence. High squa transcript levels are seen in the inflorescence lateral meristems as soon as they are formed in the axils of bracts. Squa transcriptional activity persists through later stages of floral morphogenesis, with the exception of stamen differentiation. Although necessary for shaping a normal racemose inflorescence, the squa function is not absolutely essential for flower development. We discuss the function of the gene during flowering, its likely functional redundancy and its possible interaction with other genes participating in the genetic control of flower formation in Antirrhinum.