Look at how striking the iridescence of this beautiful Microsorum thailandicum is! Sadly its beauty may inevitably be its downfall. Endemic to limestone rock crevices in the Chumphon Province of Thailand, over-harvesting for the horticultural trade may be driving this plant to extinction. More work needs to be done to assess the abundance of this species in the wild. Be wary of places selling such species!


Photo Credit: Clivid

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Surprisingly I only have one plant-related tattoo so far. The one on my leg is an illustration of a woman turning into an iris, kind of an optical illusion. I have plans for many botanical tattoos, though! Going to add a mandragora root and a heartbeet (the root of the beet will be a realistic heart, combining my love for anatomy and botanicals) to the leg with my iris lady, for starters! I have more ideas but all in good time.


Dear indefenseofplants,

This is the unlabelled fern in question. The rhizomes (bottom) were very visible above the soil which makes me think it might be some kind of rabbit’s foot fern, but I haven’t been able to find one of those online with similar foliage. The leaves grow on tall, thin, almost black stems. I hope these pics are enough for some kind of identification. It’s in my vivarium now so it’s hard to get a better view. Thank you!

Enter the paleoherbs. No, paleoherbs are not a New Age fad diet, but rather a group of flowering plants that exhibit traits of both monocots and dicots. Paleoherbs belong to three different orders, Aristolochiales, Piperales, and Nymphaeales. For instance, members of Nymphaeales exhibit net-like leaf veins but have only a single cotyledon. Each group also has quite unique flower morphologies as well.

Because of the uniqueness of this group, botanists have even developed a distinct theory around the origin of flowering plants. Instead of a woody shrub origin of angiosperms, the paleoherb theory suggests an herbaceous origin of angiosperms. Indeed, genetic analysis shows that some paleoherbs are more closely related to monocots than they are dicots. Much more work is needed on this subject but the presence of these paleoherb lineages certainly makes the debate much more interesting! Only time will tell!

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Meet the peculiar Calceolaria uniflora from the mountains of Patagonia. This strange little plant is a relative of the lady’s purses that turn up in the horticultural trade from time to time. Supposedly Darwin himself discovered this little plant!

As with any strange flower, once you begin to ponder the significance of the flower morphology, you inevitably come to the same question, what on Earth pollinates it??

As a whole the genus Calceolaria is bee pollinated. Relying on what are known as “oil bees,” most of the flowers in this genus produce hairs that secret oils that the female bees relish. Calceolaria uniflora is rather different from the rest. Instead of producing flowers with a tube or a pouch, this species creates this almost alien looking red and orange flower with a bright white appendage on its lower lip. What is going on there? The answer to this strange riddle has a clue in where this species grows.

At high altitudes, oil-collecting bees are rather scarce. It is simply to cold and harsh for many insects to survive in the mountains of Patagonia. Instead, what are present are birds, specifically a species of seedsnipe. These little birds exist on a plant based diet and spend a lot of their time holding territories and grazing on seeds and fruits of a handful of alpine plants. Researchers noticed that patches of Calceolaria uniflora growing around these birds seemed to have high levels of floral damage, specifically on the lower lip where the white appendage is. In fact, the white appendage was often completely removed.

As it turns out, the seedsnipes regularly visit patches of these flowers and proceed to peck off and eat the white appendage! When tested in the lab, researchers found these appendages to be high in sugars. As the birds peck off these appendages, the sexual parts of the flower bash against the birds head. As it does, pollen is dusted onto the bird as well as onto the female parts of the flower. Thus pollination is achieved! When we think of birds as pollinators, we often think of hummingbirds or honeyeaters. The relationship between Calceolaria and the seedsnipe is rather outlandish in comparison but it definitely works for both species! The lack of insect pollinators has driven Calceolaria uniflora towards an alternative pollinator and a unique one at that!

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Photo Credit: Julio Martinich 

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indefenseofplants said:

Regarding nepenthes blooms, they are an incredible sight to see. The spikes are often a few feet in length! I don't know if they necessarily have a flowering season in captivity but they do have to be mature before they will produce a flower spike. That can sometimes take a decade for some species or only a few years for others. Plants are either male or female too. It is super neat. Just witnessed a mature Nepenthes Miranda in bloom and the plant was bigger than a small sized car! Cheers, Matt

Wow, I didn’t know that! That’s pretty cool, I hope to see one someday. Thanks for the info. I’d been wondering about their flowers for awhile but hadn’t looked into it for some reason.


What you are looking at here may appear to be a lovely red cactus flower but would you believe me if I said you were mistaken? Surely it is easy to see how confusion would arise. What you are actually seeing here are the flowers of a South American species of mistletoe!

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Photo Credit:
Pato Novoa


Jardín Botánico Nacional