PLANT MIMICRY

Ain’t nature wonderful!  Well, except for tornadoes, mosquitoes, quick sand, etc., etc.,…

Actually, I’m thinking about plants that mimic animals and other non-plant aspects of nature.  For instance, the Butterfly Clerodendrum (C. ugandense) has bright green leaves and perfect little butterfly-mimic flowers of blue and violet.  This tropical shrub is fast-growing and thirsty, but the flowers are so pretty and intriguing that it’s worth the almost daily watering required when used as a potted summer patio plant.

Then there is the Stigmaphyllon, a subtropical vine that produces clusters of small, golden-yellow flowers on slender twining stems.  The real kicker is when a papery seed pod forms, surprisingly large and in the shape of a butterfly!  This vine is border-line hardy in our area, requiring sun and shelter.

South Africa is the home of the Lithop, a small succulent plant with two thick leaves that mimic pebbles, commonly called “living stones.”  The realistic effect of a rocky area of ground is only revealed to be a trick when the “rocks” unexpectedly produce tiny daisy-like flowers.  These weird plants are difficult, but not impossible, to grow on a bright windowsill.  An additional fun aspect of these plants is that the top surface of the plant is in effect a large skylight, allowing sunlight to filter in and hit the photosynthesizing cells lining the inside wall of its “atrium”.

The carnivorous Sun Dew (Drosera) attracts thirsty insects by boldly displaying what appear to be juicy drops of dew.  When the insect lands to quench his thirst, he finds the dew is really sticky digestive enzymes.  Once stuck, the insect is smothered and digested.

Some orchids use “sex” to achieve pollination (maybe they should have their own reality show?)  They produce flowers that mimic the female of particular bee or wasp species in order to lure the males .  In attempting to mate, the male bee or wasp collects pollen which he then carries to the next orchid (male bees and wasps being what they are.) 

Several plant species emit an odor that smells of rotting meat.  While this does not appeal to the human nose, this pretense at a rich food source does draw flies and certain beetles, which then spread pollen around what must be a rather stinky neighborhood.  Stapelia and amorphallus are two types of “carrion flowers.”  Fortunately, the smaller varieties of stapelia make good houseplants, and you have to stick your nose on them to get their dubious “aroma.”  Treat stapelias as you would an aloe or jade plant.

The tropical vine Aristolochia durior, Dutchman’s Pipe, gets its common name from the flower’s strong resemblance to a meerschaum pipe.  Another Aristolochia (A. grandiflora) sports the common name Pelican Flower, but I think its large, purplish, speckled floppy flowers look more like a big slab of liver than a pelican’s throat pouch.

I have to throw in one non-houseplant mimic, the mouse plant.  Arisarum proboscideum produces a flower with a mouse-shaped flower head and a long wispy mouse tail.

Posted: 6/18/2014 by Margot | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: TheGreatIndoors
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