Parasitic Plant Flowers From 2002 - Observation of the Week, 12/8/19

Our Observation of the Week is this Balanophora laxiflora plant, seen in Taiwan by @tsaiyuwu!

Back in 2002, Tsai-yu Wu took part in “a staff trip to the lovely mountains and forests. In Taiwan, we do have a lot of beautiful mountains and forests.” Tsai-yu had just purchased a digital camera (the Sony P9, with four megapixels of resolution according to DP Review) and this was their first field trip with it. The photo you see above was the 284th photo taken with that camera.

A member of the family Balanophoraceae, Balanophora laxiflora is a parasitic plant, and you would really only notice it when it sends its fungi-like red inflorescences into the air, as Tsai-yu captured. When not in flower, the plant is basically an underground tuber-like organism, attached to its host. Long used in traditional medicine to treat coughs and inflammation, the plant is currently being studied as a source of possible pharmacological compounds.

Tsai-yu (above) is now a bird watcher and bird researcher who is concerned about bird conservation, and traces their interest in nature to the summer before entering college. “Everything started there. The more I touch the wild, the more I love it,” explains Tsai-yu.

Since I am a bird watcher and a researcher, I use eBird and xeno-canto mostly. I am not quite familiar with other animals or plants, although I still like to take photos of them. iNaturalist provides a very good platform to help to solve the "unidentified" records, especially those older photos scattered on my hard disk or slides. It's really nice to know the names of the "unnamed" species I've met before. It's also very good to share species distribution records to other researchers who concerns about biodiversity conservation.

- by Tony Iwane.

- You can see Tsai-Yu’s publications here.

- Balanophora laxiflora may contain compounds that help lower uric acid levels in the blood.

- Balanophora laxiflora footage!

Posted by tiwane tiwane, December 09, 2019 04:34

Comments

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Cool observation.
Our experience in the Cape of a related parasite (on Proteas) is that is is therophilous (pollinated by mammals (and birds)) and myrmecochorous (seeds dispersed and stored by ants in their nests).
I suspect that many other species in the family may share these syndromes.

Posted by tonyrebelo about 2 months ago (Flag)
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A really great shot of a fascinating organism! Well done!

Posted by susanhewitt about 2 months ago (Flag)
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Thank you for all you are doing and sharing. Aweseome photos. Happy Holidays:)

Posted by sheilsun about 2 months ago (Flag)
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Beautiful!

Posted by cesarcastillo about 2 months ago (Flag)

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