Monday, March 8, 2010

Pelargonium hirtum from the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden....this is a plant you can't help but love

I have always loved desert plants. Or admired them. Actually I think the latter led to the former. There's something wonderful about a plant that can sit, without water, for months and months of scorching heat, revivify magically within hours or days of rain, and top the whole cycle off with beautiful flowers. If you add an interesting  seed, like this one with its silken pappus and curious torsion you just have a wonderful plant. Even the achenes are arrayed interestingly. Wow.

My personal love affair with succulents eventually led me to caudiciforms, those xerophytes that store water in an enlarged organ derived from stem tissue and located at or near soil level. There are caudiciform members of many planat families, it's one of the obvious ways to store water. The genus Pelargonium, with its swollen stems has obviously headed down this road. Our grandparents, or maybe great grandparents overwintered common garden Geraniums by hanging them upside down in a cool location for the winter. There was enough storage capacity in those succulent stems to carry the plants through the winter. The desert species, like P. hirtum, just spend dry periods defoliated and looking dead. Rains bring refoliation, flowering, and in the case of this particular species, abundant seed production.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Hi Chris,

thought you'd enjoy this website...if you haven't already!

(it is in Japanese, but I'm sending you the translated link)