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Carrion Plants January 31, 2010

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Common names:        Carrion Plant, Carrion Flower, Starfish Flower

Scientific name:        Stapelia species

Explanation of scientific name:

Stapelia – named for J.B.VanStapel, a 16th century Dutch physician

There are 90 species of Carrion Plants that belong to the genus Stapelia. Stapelias, in turn, belong to the plant family Asclepiadaceae (the Milkweed family – named after Asclepias, the common milkweeds).

Native to South Africa, the Stapelias are stem succulents with thick, fleshy, soft, 4-sided stems that are leafless except for some minute scaly bristles. Carrion Plants bear a superficial resemblance to cacti, but are botanically unrelated because of their different floral anatomy. Cacti, incidentally, are native only to the American continents. Stapelias and cacti look quite alike, however, since they evolved over millions of years in similar desert-like environments. They faced the same environmental challenges, and developed adaptations to cope with them. Both groups can withstand long periods of drought because of their ability to store water in their stems. When two unrelated species evolve to appear so similar, biologists label the phenomenon “convergent evolution”.

Probably the most interesting feature of the Carrion Plants is the flower structure. Ranging in size from a fraction of an inch to over 12 inches across, the flowers are 5 – pointed and resemble the starfish of the sea. This resemblance has led to the use of the common name Starfish Flower. The flowers are not pollinated in the usual ways, such as by bees or wind. Instead, flies are the exclusive pollinators. In an effort to attract the flies, Carrion Plants have evolved to produce flowers with properties quite attractive to flies. The odor emitted from these flowers is strong and fetid, resembling that which would come from a decaying animal carcass. In addition to the rank odor, the colors of Stapelia flowers are shades of purple-brown and yellow with striations (bars) of darker colors. This gives the impression of exposed flesh. The fine hairs that cover the surface of the flowers further enhance the resemblance to carrion. Therefore the name Carrion plant fits it very well.

The odor of the plant isn’t apparent until a flower is blooming. If there is a flower blooming then it’s a grantee you will be able to smell it.

Plants with Eyes July 26, 2009

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Yes folks, I know that it’s been awhile since my last post, and I’m sure that you are all thinking that I’m absolutely nuts for saying this but: starting with Darwin and moving to the early 1900’s botanists have been throwing around the idea that plants must have some form of “eyes”.

Well it wasn’t until 1908 that Professor Harold Wagner, finally discovered the plant “eye”. I personally can’t say this right but here is the link to the piece written in the New York Times on September 8th 1908 called:

Plants Have Eyes, Botanist Shows

Here is also a rather humorus and cool video posted on YouTube. It is showing the time lapse,s, being sped up to show how plants are moving. It makes the plant look like it’s opening and closing “eyes” so it’s almost like they are peeping.

Plants With Eyes

Though the plants really don’t have “eyes” in the sense that humans have eyes they still need to be able to detect sun light so these “eyes” for plants are truly remarkable.

Here are a few pictures just to keep your mind wondering.

Dolls Eyes

The common name Doll Eyes comes from the black marks on the end of the seed pod that is like older doll’s eyes were painted.

Dolls Eyes 2

Notice how the stem and peduncles have turned a red purple color, showing the maturity of the plant.

Not my last May 12, 2009

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Hi all I hope you remember me stating that this blog was for my class in college, but I actually decided that I like writing it and I will continue it on. The blogs maybe fewer and farther in between, but I promise to keep writing about the weird, unusual and just plant cool, plants in our world and how they have impacted our lives.

Thanks for reading and I hope you continue to read. =)

Flowers in Greek Mythology April 30, 2009

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Here is something some or you might find interesting: how, according to Greek mythology, certain flowers came about!

In the Greek language the term ‘flora’ is ‘chloris’. It is derived from the name of the goddess of vegetation, Chloris, which reasonably makes sense, right? Makes sense to me.

The word ‘iris’ is derived from the name of the messenger of gods, Iris (go figure), her role was to accompany souls to their places of eternal peace, by a rode, that was marked by the rainbow, which was comprised of the flowers Iris and the many colors that they come in.

iris-flower

iris-goddess1

The next flower that received recognition for a Greek god is the daffodil. The Greek god, Narcissus, is the son of the river god Cephisus and a forest nymph, and according to legend he was exceptionally handsome. All the nymphs desired him, but he was in love with only one person, himself, apparently one day while he was admiring himself in a pool that was formed by the River Elikon, the other gods decided that they would punish him for his impudence. So they made him fall into the pool and he drowned there (fairly odd seen as how he was the son of the river god), but only a flower now remains where hell fell, the narcissus or daffodil. This flower will always bear a golden crown, and consequently the daffodil grows and bows over the waters of lakes and rivers (ironic isn’t it?).

daffodil-flower

narcissus

The name Adonis has a countless myths inked to his name. One story goes like this; Zeus, mightiest of all gods, decreed that Adonis must spend two thirds of one year on earth with Aphrodite and the other third with Persephone in the Underworld. As it comes to pass Adonis is killed by a boar and Aphrodite, after learning of Adonis’s death, sheds as many tears as the blood drops that fell from Adonis’s body. From every tear that is shed a rose bush grows and every kind of rose known to man (that obviously was not bred by man) is formed by every drop of blood. Also from Adonis’s blood came a short lived flower called Anemone, which is significant because of Adonis’s short lived life.

Roses and Adonis/Aphrodite and Anemone

Last by not least are the Crocus flowers which are white or violet with dark veins. In Homer’s Iliad, he compares the color of the sky at sunrise with that of the crocus when he writes of the, ‘crocus-mantled down….’ The flowers have striking red stigma, also known as pistils, which is the upper part of the female organ which is normally sticky to allow for the pollen to be collected. The when the stigmas of the crocus are dried they make saffron, produce a yellow color used to dye fabrics and makes a very good spice. Another interesting mythological story for crocus is how it received its name. accordingly the god Hermes was playing in the countryside which his friend Crocus, when he accidently wounded him in the head. As Crocus died three drops of blood fell in the center of a, then nameless plant, and became the three red threads of the crocus plant, which was therefore named of Hermes’ friend Crocus (go figure once more).

crocus-flower

hermes

Well that’s all I have for now I hope you all like this and found it as interesting as I did.

Unique Plants 2 April 27, 2009

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5. Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)

ghost-plant

Not all plants gain nutrition from the sun, in one particular case the Indian Pipe plant, all so known as Ghost Plant, obtains its nutrients from decaying matter in the soil. The Indian Pipe is a smooth, leafless, waxy herbaceous plant and is colorless because it has no chlorophyll. It obtains a black color once it is fully mature and unfortunately I have not been able to find a picture of a mature plant, but it is generally rare to find.

6. Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantea)

giant-cactus

Native to the South Western United States (mainly Arizona and New Mexico) and it lives in the dessert areas. The way this cactus survives is during the brief rain storms that happen about once every 6 to 8 months the plant opens it’s stomata (allows for water and air movement) and basically sucks up the rain and in one rain storm the cactus can hold up to 8 tons of water in its roots and body.


7. Coco de Mer (Lodoicea maldivica)

coco-de-mer

This is the largest seed in the world and it can get up to if not larger than 20 inches in long. This seed is considered a nut and it is protected by the Seychelles government.

Unique Plants Part 1 April 22, 2009

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I have already talked about the interesting carnivorous plants, so I’m not going to mention them anymore. But here are a few very interesting plants, that I think have extremely cool adaptations.

Starting first with the Resurrection Fern (Selaginella lepidophyll):

resurrection-fern

The Resurrection Fern lives in very dry climates. So when there is not enough rain it actually shrivels up and looks dead, but when it finally rains it brightens right back up and is as green as the greenest plant. It also grows and gets bigger, so that is why every time people look at it; it always seems bigger. If it runs out of water then it shrivels up and forms a ball once again; so it is never really “dead” but it look dead.

Number 2 is the Strangler Fig (Ficus):

strangler-fig1

Ficus seeds will actually germinate in a tree and them form roots that will eventually wrap around the tree. The roots are considered adventitious and grow out of nodes in the “stem” and then act like vines growing and also clinging to the trunk and then reach the soil. Every year the roots get larger in diameter, which also makes them harder to break by the tree (as it also grows in diameter), eventually allowing it to encircle the tree. Thus, allowing the Ficus to eventually strangle the plant (normally trees) of which it is growing on.

Number 3 and 4 is the Corpes Lily and the Stapelia:

corpes-lily-and-stapelia1

First of the Corpes Lily is one of the largest flowers in the world and it stinks like a rotting animal, which is why it’s called the Corps Lily. The Stapelia is defiantly one of the largest flowers in the world and it’s flower smells like rotting meat.

St. Johnswort April 18, 2009

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st-johnswort1

For about 2400 years, St. Johnswort had been used for many different purposes thought-out history. St. Johnswort is a perennial shrub that produces abundant yellow flowers that is native to Europe and North Africa. The early Christians converted this plant as a symbol of St. John the Baptist because this plant blooms around June 24 which is St. John’s Day. The Greeks thought that it chased away spirits then the Christians decided that it was God-related and should have a name of a holy person.

St. Johnswort was brought to the United States in 1696 as a medicinal, ornamental and “magical” plant. It is now grown naturally throughout most of the world. You can find it specifically in northern California, southern Oregon and Colorado.

St. Johnswort has become one of the most popular herbal remedies for several different medical uses. This plant has been used for centuries to treat mental disorders and nerve pain. Back in ancient days herbalists used it as a sedative and a treatment for malaria. It is also used as balm for wounds, burns and insect bites. Today we have discovered several new uses that we use for depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. There has also been some research that shows that there are some antiviral compounds that may be useful in the treatment of AIDS. It is still commonly used as a painkiller for relieving arthritis pain and menstrual cramping, and relief for gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, nausea and ulcers.

As with any herbal use there are side effects and cautions for children and elderly. St. Johnswort is not recommended for children unless under physician care. Women who are pregnant or currently lactating, patients with bi-polar or are considered as manic-depressive should not take this drug. It can cause photosensitivity, anxiety, dry mouth, dizziness, gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, headache or sexual dysfunction. Other affects can be disorientation and speech difficulty, rigidity of neck muscles or contractions of other muscles, pupil dilation, sudden rise in blood pressure and palpitations, severe sweating and high fever.

Flowers in Christianity April 16, 2009

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Flowers can mean different things in different contexts: in religion particularly. For the early Christians, flowers were regarded with great suspicion and associated them with decadent pagans. In Islam, the beauty of each flower is a symbol of God’s spirit. During the Middle Ages, the Christians appreciated the beauty of nature and regarded this as proof that God created the world. In America, church-goers would sniff fennel to help keep them awake during the long sermons. For thousands of years, art and speech were used in culture and religion through flowers. Flowers are also used in many different Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter.

From the second century, sexual intercourse was considered a “sin” by the Christian church, but animals had no souls so their sex was ok since people needed more animals to survive, especially domesticated ones. Plants were considered the only “pure” life form on earth because people said that they did not have sex. If plants did have sex, then people said that the church teachings were wrong. So, this is when Christian theologies denied that plants ever had sex. Later, the Christians accepted that plants had sex and that it was not that big of deal.

In the five main religions, flowers and plants mean different occasions and spiritual things. The main five religions of the world are Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and Chinese religions. Each religion has a main flower that they associate with their religion. In the Islam religion, there is no one flower that they associate with their religion. The lotus is the main flower that is associated with the Buddhist religion. In Chinese religions white flowers, Peonies, Orchids, Lotus and Daffodils and a few others are associated with this religion. In the Christian religion, many flowers have a lot of symbolism and representation to the religion and the people of the world. The passion flower, the white lily, the archetypal flower, the pomegranate, and the

The main flower that means a lot in the Christian religion is the passion flower. This flower is mainly a symbol of Jesus’ scourging, crowning with thorns and crucifixion. Every part of this flower has some type of meaning. The spiraled tendrils symbolize the lash of Christ’s scourging. The central flower column is a symbol of the pillar of the Scourging. The 72 radial filaments is a symbol of the Crown of Thorns. The top three stigmas symbolize the three nails. The lower five anthers symbolize the five wounds. The Style represents the Sponge used to moisten Christ’s lips with vinegar. The leaves and some species represent the head of the Centurion’s Spear. The red stains represent Christ’s blood drops. The round fruit represents the world Christ came to save. The Fragrance symbolizes the spices prepared by the Holy women. This flower gives specific reasons and visualizations to the Christian faith. It provides a visual meaning to the teachings of the Gospel story and the eras where there were no printed catechisms. The passion flower has a number of symbols found in flowers individually other religions and traditions (John S. Strokes Jr.).

passion-flower2

The archetypal flower is a symbol of the Christian religion. The archetypal flower symbolizes the purity and is associated with the Virgin Mary. The white pedals represents that she was pure and had a clean body. When seeing an angel or in a vase on the ground of a scene, there you will usually be a white lily placed in the picture. In devotional paintings of the Virgin and the Child with saints, there are usually lilies and other flowers placed in the pictures. Other white flowers including: lily-of-the-valley, leucojum, snowdrops, or white flowers with golden centers like roses and daisies can also reflect this meaning as well (Flowers and Religion). These white flowers keep a sacred meaning to purity and the Virgin Mary.

the-archetypal-flower1

Another flower that has a specific meaning is the pomegranate. The pomegranate symbolizes the resurrection and the hope of eternal life (Pomegranate). This is because of the abundance of seeds (pomegranate.) Another symbol is of royalty and the church and the seeds would represent the believers in the church (pomegranate.) In pomegranates, the seeds are bursting out and this symbolizes Christ bursting out of the tomb (Frosted Skies). The pomegranate is a significant symbol of hope and resurrection in the Christian religion.

pomegranate-fruit-and-flower1

As in many other religions, the rose is a symbol in the Christian religion. Roses have been as symbol of the Virgin. Catholics use rosaries that symbolize and indicate the separate prayers as tiny roses. Roses in nature are really small five petal flowers and come in an array of colors. Representing Christ’s wounds is the white rose with its five petals and the white color representing Christ’s purity and the red rose represents Christ’s sacrificial blood (Flowers and Religion). The red rose also is the symbol of love.

Flowers are important to many religions of this world, particularly as I mentions for Christianity. The passion flower has several different meanings to Christianity. The archetypal flower is a symbol of the Virgin Mary and purity. Roses represent the prayers, wounds and sacrificial blood that Christ shed for us. Flowers in general are symbols of life and are used to decorate. Without flowers, Christians would not have much to remind them of what Christ did and the promises that he made.

Mandrakes: Histories, myths, and legends April 6, 2009

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How’s this for you, your reading or watching the first Harry Potter book/movie and Hermione Granger does her famous drawl about the Mandrake. Is this starting to perk a few ears? Jog a few memories? Now the next question is how many of you thought that the Mandrake was a fictional plant thought up in the minds of writers and poets?

Well to tell the truth the Mandrake is real and it is the common name for members of the plant genus Mandragora, which belongs to the Solanaceae or Nightshades family. The Nightshades family is full or plants that are mainly thought and definitely does have the properties to be “poisonous and deadly” BUT, many are not to the point of being completely deadly, such as the common potatoes that many of us eat on a regular basis (potatoes are not in the Mandragora genus).

The mandrake Mandragora officinarum has parsley-shaped roots that are often branched. The root gives off at the surface of the ground a rosette of ovate-oblong to ovate shaped, 5 to 40 centimeter (2 to 16 inches) long leaves, which somewhat resemble tobacco leaves. It also gives of many single flowers that nod on a peduncle from the neck that are whitish-green and almost 3 inches (5 centimeters) broad. These produce globular, succulent, and orange to red berries that look like small tomatoes. All parts of this plant are poisonous and they grow natively in southern and central Europe and in land around the Mediterranean Sea, as well as on Corsica. In Arabic it is called luffâh, or beid el-jinn “djinn’s eggs”.

mandrake-21

Anyhow back to the Mandragora genus, these species do contain deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids, such as hyosyamine (a secondary metabolite found in members of the Solanaceae family that is used as a secondary growth compound, which actually inhibits growth of the plants) and the roots contain bifurcations causing them to resemble human figures.

mandrake1

The roots have long been used in religions such as Wicca and Germanic religions such as Odinism. It is also mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in Bereshit 30: 14 – 16:

14 And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah: ‘Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes.’

15 And she said unto her: ‘Is it a small matter that thou hast taken away my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son’s mandrakes also?’ And Rachel said: ‘Therefore he shall lie with thee to-night for thy son’s mandrakes.’

16 And Jacob came from the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said: ‘Thou must come in unto me; for I have surely hired thee with my son’s mandrakes.’ And he lay with her that night.

In Bereshit 30, Reuben, the eldest son of Jacob and Leah finds mandrakes in a field. Rachel, Jacob’s infertile second wife and Leah’s sister, is desirous of the mandrakes and barters with Leah for them. The trade offered by Rachel is for Leah to spend the next night in Jacob’s bed in exchange of Leah’s mandrakes. Leah gives away the plant to her barren sister, but soon after this (Bereshit 30:17-22), Leah, who had previously had four sons but had been infertile for a long while, became pregnant once more and in time gave birth to two more sons, Issachar and Zebulun, and a daughter, Dinah. Only years after this episode of her asking for the mandrakes did Rachel manage to get pregnant. There are classical Jewish commentaries which suggest that mandrakes help barren women to conceive children. Mandrake in Hebrew means “love plant” and is believed by many cultures that Mandragora officinarum is the mandrake of the biblical times.

mandrake-31

It is also said that musicians and those that participate(d) in witch craft also used this plant to twist and contort into a crude visual of a human being, by pinching or constricting just below the top so that is looked like a head and neck, and then they would twist off all the upper branches except two which would look like arms, and then they would two of the lower branches to make them look like legs.

mandrake-42

It has long been rumored that when the roots of the mandrake is dug up it screams and is deadly to anyone who hears it without protection (hence why in Harry Potter the kids had to wear protective ear muffs). There is great bouts of literature that includes complex directions for harvesting mandrake roots in relative safety. A rather humorous extract from Josephus (who lived around 37 AD in Jerusalem) states that:

“A furrow must be dug around the root until its lower part is exposed, then a dog is tied to it, after which the person tying the dog must get away. The dog then endeavors to follow him, and so easily pulls up the root, but dies suddenly instead of his master. After this the root can be handled without fear.”

Another interesting common belief in some countries is that a mandrake would grow where the semen of a hanged man dripped on to the earth. This appears to be the reason why alchemists “projected human seed into animal earth”. In Germany, the plant is known as the Alraune: the novel (later adapted as a film) Alraune by Hanns Heinz Ewers is based around a soulless woman conceived from a hanged man’s semen, the title referring to this myth of the Mandrake’s origins.

So to say the least there is a whole lot more information on mandrakes that has to do with many different cultures, religions, and magical myths.

Carnivorous Plants March 24, 2009

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Who here is interested in Carnivorous plants (sometimes called insectivorous plants)? These plants are so called Carnivorous because they derive most of their nutrients from trapping and consuming animals or protozoan’s (microorganisms classified as unicellular, or many celled organisms such as eukaryotes), these are typically insects and other arthropods (spiders (arachnids) and crustacean like creatures (shell fish)). These plants appear to be adapted to growing in places where the soil is thin or poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen, for example acidic bogs or rocky outcroppings.

It is thought that “true carnivory” in plants evolved in at least ten separate lineages of plants, and that these are now represented by more than a dozen genera in five families. These include but not limited to about 625 species that attract and trap prey produce digestive enzymes, and then absorb the resulting available nutrients. Additionally, over 300 protocarnivorous plant species (plants that have the ability to trap prey, but cannot absorb or digest the prey) in several different genera show some but not all the characteristics of ‘true carnivorous’ plants.

There are five basic trapping mechanisms found, that carnivorous plants use.

1.       Pitfall traps (more commonly known as pitcher plants) trap prey in a rolled leaf that contains a pool of digestive enzymes or bacteria.

pitcher-plant2 

2.       Flypaper traps use a sticky mucilage (sticky substance thought to aid in water storage, example sundew)

fly-paper-trap1

3.       Snap traps utilize rapid leaf movements (such as the Venus Flytrap)

 

venus-fly-trap

4.       Bladder traps suck in prey with a bladder that generates an internal vacuum (such as Bladderworts)

 

bladder-trap

5.       Lobster-pot traps force prey to move towards a digestive organ with inward-pointing hairs (such as corkscrew plants)

lobster-pot-traps

Not all of these methods are active because it depends on whether there is movement of the plant to help aid capture and retention of prey.

Carnivorous plants are wide spread but like the exotic orchids are rare to come by. Their habitats are almost entirely restricted to bogs where soil nutrients are very limiting, but where sunlight and water are readily available. They can also be found near and around dessert outcroppings where water isn’t as readily available but where sun is.

Sun is the source of energy, but in order to produce and carry out energy the plants obtain mainly Nitrogen and Phosphorus (both used in the plants of reproduction and metabolism functions). Plants have also been known to get Potassium and Calcium for cell structure and strength.

Without the adaptations that carnivorous plants have obtained they could not survive in the environments of which they live. Also I personally think the world would be a slightly duller place without these fascinating plants.

 

Here is a Pretty Awesome Video that I was able to findon YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awKwxwTYIXo