Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ugly / Smelly Plants - Berry Go Round April 2013 Edition

For this roundup of Berry-Go-Round, we cast our spot-light on a shadowy corner of botanical curios that challenge our olfactory and aesthetic senses (and oftentimes, both) and test the limit of our love of plants.

Amorphophallus prainii
Skunk Cabbage
After many months of snowy winter in the Northern hemisphere, one of the first Spring blooms Tracey encountered in the swamps was non other than the dark and brooding skunk cabbage. Aaahh .... the smell of Spring. Over at the Pacific Coast Dana caught sight of its more cheerful but equally  odoriferous cousin. One thing about the Aroid family is that there's no shortage of smelly ugly plants, and the biggest of them all is a 2 metre tall foul spouting chimney -  Amorphophallus titanum - go see for yourself. Right over at Carnosa, Boon Leng has some collections of Amorphophalluses in the wild - A. prainii is a particularly stinky one. I have been a fan of these aroids for a while and sometime back, 4 species rewarded me with blooms all at once. Admittedly, no mother will say her child is ugly, likewise a gardener, his plants. But has your child ever mimic a corpse with a hairy tail ? Well, Real Monstrosities featured a dead horse arum that smelled like one too. 

Out in the desert, Fireflyforest had a all-too-close encounter with the aptly named stink gourd and came back wishing they had bought deodorant. More ungainly than ugly, I cannot stop grinning at this unorthodox Saguaro specimen. At the other side of the world, somewhere in Nambib Desert to be precise, Tarmo RTW has wonderful pictures of the ancient Welwitschia mirabilis that sometimes had one wondering if its still alive - or had been alive. At the garden of PATSP, another xerophyte, Stapelia gigantea, unleashed its bristly bloom that smelled of dog faeces ....

Underground Orchid
Vines....how bad can they get ? Well I can assure you Aristolochia gigantea is a real shocker and its smaller cousin Pararistolochia promissa reeks of really bad seafood. Orchids too ? Yes - in fact this family is so diverse that its unsurprising some of them can be unconventional due to their extreme adaptations. Take the Bulbophyllums for example, this is a genus of many carrion-fly pollinated flowers and so they have to smell and look like the flies favourite haunt - rotting fruits or carcasses. Zul's Orchid craze featured one of these -  Bulbophyllum graveolens, and PBG Blog showcased the giant Bulbophyllum beccarii from Borneo- from the smell, you would have thought somebody had died there. And what about the totally weird looking saprophytic orchid Galeola , with its sausage-like pods and the fantastic underground orchid - Rhizanthella gardneri ? Yes, I just said an underground orchid, though I am as baffled as you especially after looking at the closeups

And finally, let's look at some parasitic plants - this is where the experiments run wild on stolen rations. First off, Hydnora - from Real Monstrosities excellent photos I thought I was staring at an alien rupture. And from Jungle Mike's incredible adventures, the bizarre Rafflesia and its hair-raisingly ugly cousin Rhizanthes lowii

Well, that sums it up for now - I fear some readers may have reached their threshold for smelly ugly things. 

Berry-Go-Round is a blog carnival of botanical things and they welcome contributors and hosts alike - do check it out


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Variegated Begonia elisabethae aff

If you have a copy of Ruth Kiew's book Begonias of Peninsular Malaysia,you would probably see a plain green species with a peculiar habit of producing bulbils at the root tip. Supposedly, only  Begonia elisabethae has such a reproductive habit locally, but alas with its plain green leaves its not too eye catching.

While exploring the limestone of S. Thailand bordering the Peninsula Malaysia, I had the good fortune of finding a similar species growing on vertical cliffs, except for the intricate pattern on the leaf. I had visited the habitat during the wet and dry season, and noticed that the plant die down completely during the dry months - around December and January. 

During the wet season, which, by the way, is not a good time to scale the muddy, slippery slope, I saw the plant in its full glory ....
Strangely, the plant also produced bulbils at the leaf tip ....
Upon dislodging the plant from the cliff, I can see a rather large bulb about 2 cm in diameter. The  plain green variety also grew on the same cliff as the variegated one.
These are the male and female flowers.

At this point I can only say they are most probably similar to the Begonia elisabethae featured in the book except for their variegation. This group of closely related seasonal Begonias (which include B. variabilis and B. integrifolia) are known to be variable in their vegetative appearance so I won't be at all surprise if indeed its the same species.

And by the way, this is a very frustrating plant to grow due to its dormant habit and the ease which the elongated leaf rots.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

And I still haven't found, what I'm searching for

.... 600m asl, somewhere in Northern Leyte, Phillippines.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Berry-Go-Round - Soliciting for posts on Smelly and/ or Ugly Plants

Hi all,

I will be hosting Berry-Go-Round for this month and will be soliciting postings on a special kind of plant... the kind that violate your aesthetic good taste or assault your olfactory sensitivities. An encounter with these plants will leave you in awe or in disgust, but never indifferent - and I reckon there should be ample materials for an interesting read. So bring forth all your postings .....I wait in earnest....

You can either drop me a note with a link or use the submission form here.

Berry-Go-Round is a blog carnival of botanical things - you can find out more here:
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