April 20th, 2006

beach monster

fun with parasitic plants

A while back, fizzygeek and I joined red_lynx, heptadecagram, and a friend of his for a trip to the botanical gardens in DC. While standing around the stinky flower spike of an Amorphophallus, talk turned to plants with big stinky blooms. heptadecagram mentioned the famous carrion lily (Rafflesia arnoldii), and I felt compelled to point out that it's a parasitic plant, and in fact, only parasitizes Liana†. This rather amused us, as we have a friend named Liana. But I forbore to post about it at that point, as she had rather a lot on her mind right about then.

Today, as I was poking around for reference material to back up my assertion, I found this lovely page, including some fun quotes:

  • [...] flowers are slowly emerging from lianas buried in forest leaf-litter
  • In fact, Rafflesia are leafless parasitic plants residing just beneath the rough bark of lianas in the genus Tetrastigma.
  • Unfortunately, foresters frequently cut and destroy lianas to reduce competition in the canopy
  • While walking through the forest, their sharp hooves might cut the bark of a buried liana and push seeds into the wound. [ouch!]
  • Rafflesia spreads its hairlike tendrils into the liana’s growth ring, or cambium. [eek!]

And this page has one shot with the compelling caption "Flower and buds of Rafflesia cantleyi on a heavily parasitized liana".

† Technically, Rafflesia parasitizes members of the Vitaceae family only.

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