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5 Fun Facts About Hibiscus

Hibiscus, also called Rose Mallow, are flowering plants that belong to the order of Malvaceae – which are plants that grow in warm, temperate, tropical and sub-tropical regions. There are 679 species of hibiscus in the world. 

Here are 5 more facts about them:

  1. Hibiscus are edible and have a citrusy taste. Roselle, a type of red-coloured hibiscus found in West Africa is used to make a special type of prawn soup that locals eat as a delicacy during festive times. The Paites tribe in Manipur, India also uses hibiscus leaves in their cooking, for its uplifting flavour. 
  2. One of the primary reasons why people started brewing hibiscus tea was because of the hibiscus flower’s unique diuretic properties – it has the ability to stimulate urine production in the body, thereby helping the body throw out harmful toxins. 
  3. Hibiscus is the National Flower of 3 countries – Republic of Haiti, Malaysia and South Korea.
  4. Hibiscus flowers and leaves should never be consumed by pregnant women. Why? Hibiscus is an emmenagogue food – in addition to stimulating urine production, hibiscus flowers stimulate blood flow in the pelvic region. A pregnant woman regularly consuming hibiscus flowers, leaves or hibiscus-infused foods and beverages will confuse her body into setting the menstrual process in motion. This can lead to early labour or miscarriage! Even lactating mothers would be better off staying far away from hibiscus as consumption could lead to a stop in milk production. 
  5. Want to shine your dirty shoes before a big meeting? Go right into your garden and get a hibiscus. Hibiscus oil is a natural shoe-shiner and is used as a shoe polish liquid across Asia. 

 

Bonus

Women in Hawaii and Tahiti have an interesting custom. Single women who come of age, who are ready for marriage and who wish to be courted wear a hibiscus flower behind their right ear; while married women and betrothed girls wear the flower behind their left ear. 

 

Hib 4

 

Hib 1

 

Hib 2

 

-NISHA PRAKASH 

 

P.S: Images – Pixabay
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5 Fun Facts About Sunflowers

Sunflowers aka Helianthus  is a genus of plant that comprises of 70 types of flowers. They are native to the Americas, but have been commercially exported to and grown all over the world.

Here are 5 fun facts about sunflowers: 

  1. The largest sunflower in the world is in Netherlands. It is 25 feet long and 5.5 inches wide. That’s almost 6 meters taller than a giraffe.
  2. Sunflower seeds follow a pattern which always follows the Fibonacci sequence
  3.  Young sunflowers exhibit a behaviour called “heliotropism” where they face the East in the morning and turn their heads, following the direction and movement of the Sun throughout the day. By nightfall, these sunflowers will be facing West. At night, they again turn their heads from West to East in preparation of the Sun’s rise. 
  4. U.S. astronaut Don Pettit took sunflower seeds on board the International Space Station in 2012 and grew pretty sunflowers in space. This makes sunflowers a part of the elite list of plants grown in space
  5. Each sunflower is made of two different types of flowers – an external ray floret which make up the long, yellow petals and the internal disc florets where the seeds grow – each of which perform unique jobs for the flower as a whole. The ray florets help in absorbing light from the sun, whereas the disc florets help in reproduction. 

 

Bonus

Sunflowers have been the pivotal focus of the careers of many artists and poets like Vincent Van Gogh, Allen Ginsberg & William Blake. The sunflowers’ behaviour of following the movement of the sun offered a message of “hope, light and rebirth” to these tortured artists, allowing them to express their repressed emotions.

However, sunflowers have also landed these artists in some exciting, but sticky situations. For example, in the year 1890, two of Van Gogh’s most famous painting series – “Sunflowers” – were displayed at an art exhibit in Brussels, Belgium, where they were received with critical acclaim. 

A Belgian artist who had his own sunflower series up in the exhibit called Van Gogh a “charlatan” in a fit of jealousy and demanded his paintings be pulled down. Van Gogh’s friend Henri Toulouse-Lautrec who was at the exhibit was so offended by the disparaging remark, he challenged the Belgian painter to an old-fashioned duel. The winner would get to have his paintings displayed and the loser would pull his paintings down.

Guess what happened once the date and time of the duel were set? The scared Belgian artist never showed up, begrudgingly agreeing to let Van Gogh’s paintings remain in the exhibit. 

 

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One of Van Gogh’s famous Sunflower paintings

 

Sunflower 3
A sunflower bud that’s about to bloom

 

Sunflower 4
Sunflowers can range in colour from pale yellow to reddish-brown. The colouring depends on the soil, the fertilizer, the water and the amount of sunlight the plants get.

 

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A sunflower field – the inspiration to many artists and poets

 

 

-NISHA PRAKASH 

P.S: Image credits- Pixbay, Van Gogh Museum

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5 Beautiful Fungi From Around The World

Fungi are a group of organisms in the plant kingdom that include mushrooms, moulds and yeast. While some are plain-Jane in appearance, others look too beautiful to be real. But the fact is, they are real, they are beautiful and some are deadly. 

Here’s our list of 5 beautiful fungi from around the world:

Pixie’s Parasol Fungus

Found in Australia, New Zealand, Chile and New Celadonia, Mycena interrupa, aka, the Pixie’s Parasol grows on moist beech and eucalyptus trees. 

 

Fungi 1
Pixie’s Parasol Fungus

 

Red Coral Fungus

Found under hemlocks, conifers and other deciduous trees in North America and the Himalayan Mountain Range, Red Coral Fungus is one of the few edible fungus in the world. 

 

Fungi red coral
Red Coral Fungus

 

Orange Peel Fungus

Growing in North America, the Orange Peel Fungus gets its name from the cup-like, orange-coloured body it has. Although it is harmless to humans and can be eaten, it is usually avoided since it very closely resembles its highly-toxic cousin, the Otidea onotica.

 

 

Fungi orange peel
Orange Peel Fungus

 

Fungi Otidea onotica
Otidea onotica – poisonous to humans

 

Porcelain Fungus

A common sight in Europe, the Porcelain Fungus grows on rotting tree barks. It releases a very strong and foul smelling fungicide that prevents animals from eating it and that destroys other plants or fungi that grow near it. 

 

Fungi Porcelain fungus
Porcelain Fungus

 

Mycena Chlorophos Fungus 

One of the handful of bio-luminescent fungus in the world, the Mycena chlorophos is found in subtropical Asia, Brazil and Australia. It glows the brightest when it is a day old and starts losing its bio-luminescence as it ages, until its glow becomes absolutely undetectable to the naked eye. 

 

Fungi Mycena Chlorophos
Mycena Chlorophos Fungus

 

 

Although these are amazing, they aren’t the only beautiful and brilliant fungi around the world. Stay tuned to Stories So Wild for more fungi-related posts!

 

 

-NISHA PRAKASH 

 

P.S: Featured Image: Golden Spindle Fungus 

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5 Fun Facts About Orchids

  1. There are more than 25,000 documented species of orchids in the world and they’ve been around since before the continental drift 200 million years ago.
  2. The smallest orchid in the world is in Ecuador. It is only 2.1mm long and it requires a microscope to examine. It’s petals are so thin and transparent, scientists believe they resemble the size and texture of human cells.
  3. There is an orchid called the Bee Orchid, whose petals and fragrance resemble a bee. The orchid uses its unique appearance and fragrance to attract male bees, to stimulate pollination.
  4. Orchid seeds are really tiny – smaller than a dust particle. That’s why some orchids take up to 15 years just to germinate. Many of the full-grown potted orchids found in stores are often decades old!
  5. Rare orchids can get really expensive. Some of the most expensive orchid plants are – Rotchschild’s orchid ($5,000 per plant), Fire lilies ($10-$20 per stem), Yellow And Purple Lady Slipper (Critically endangered – Priceless) and Ghost Orchid (Critically endangered – Priceless).

Bonus

That vanilla-flavoured ice cream you love so much? It’s derived from an orchid. The Vanilla planifolia is a type of orchid, whose leaves are used to derive the vanilla flavouring used in food and beverages. Additionally, when someone talks about “vanilla beans”, they’re actually referring to orchid seeds.

Orchid 15
Rothshild’s slipper orchid
Orchid 16
Ghost orchid
orchid 17
Purple lady slipper orchid 
Orchid 1
Rare blue orchids
Orchid 2
Praying Angel orchid
Orchid 5
Bee orchid
Orchid 8
Platystele Jungermannioides – the smallest orchid in the world
Orchid 9
Moth orchid 
Orchid 10
Monkey orchid
Orchid 13
Swaddled baby orchid
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Flying duck orchid

-NISHA PRAKASH

P.S: Featured image: Dendrobium orchid 

Are There Cannibalistic Plants?

Animals turn cannibalistic for a variety of reasons – hunger, lack of mates, competition for territory – to name a few. But have you ever heard of cannibalistic plants? There are carnivorous plants for sure. But are there plants that love their veggies? Turns out, yes there are. 

When scientists discovered that plants could be carnivorous, they were shocked. The discovery just went against the grain. But when they found out that plants could get cannibalistic too; it was a discovery that they just couldn’t wrap their heads around.

When plants eat their kin

When we talk about cannibalism in plants, we talk about plants which use other plants as food/prey as a parasite would its host.

The most fundamental way of segregating all parasitic plants is looking at how they function. Some parasitic plants affect the prey’s xylem (tissues near the roots), while others attack the prey’s phloem (tissues near the leaves). These plants grow hook-like ‘roots’ called haustoria, which they use to hang onto their hosts. The haustoria are also used to absorb nutrients from the host plants.

Dodder, aka cuscata, is a type of stem parasite that creeps and climbs around the stems and leaves of plants, biting into the plant using its haustoria and sucking out its juices. Hydnora is a root parasitic plant that sinks its haustoria into the roots of its prey, draining the plant of all its nutrients and juices.

Hydnora
Image: Hydnora; a carnivorous plant that feeds on insects also happens to be a parasitic plant. It’s a root parasite that feeds off other plants as a secondary food source.

Parasitic plants and photosynthesis

Another way of segregating parasitic plants is to understand whether they photosynthesize or not. In this case, there are two types of parasitic plants:

  • Holoparasites

Holoparasitic plants are a nightmare for gardeners around the world. These are non-photosynthesizing parasitic plants which rely solely on feeding-off other plants. They are extremely dangerous to plant health and some species lead to 100% mortality in the affected population if care isn’t taken to get rid of them.

Luckily, holoparasitic plants are quite ‘friendly’ to gardeners. They take a very long time to dry out their hosts, which gives gardeners and nursery caretakers plenty of time to tackle them. The dodder is a great example of a holoparasitic plant that is completely dependent on its host for nutrition.

Other holoparasites are squawroot, toothwort, broomrape and beechdrop.

parasitic plants
Image: Types of holoparasitic and hemiparasitic plants. Obligate parasites rely completely on their hosts to reproduce and will die out if they can’t find a permanent host to reproduce on; facultative parasites can reproduce as individual plants and don’t necessarily need a host plant to reproduce (although it can help if they have a permanent host).
  • Hemiparasites

Hemiparasitic plants derive food in two ways. They photosynthesize and gain valuable nutrition from the sun and soil just like any other plant. But they also leech-off neighbouring plants as parasites.

Since hemiparasitic plants also photosynthesize, they don’t actively feed-off other plants. It is only when they are unable to get nutrients from the sun and soil or they stand the chance of getting better nutrients from other plants that they turn parasitic.

Examples of hemiparasitic plants are mistletoe, Indian sandalwood, rattle plants, Indian paintbrush and velvetbells.

Parasitic plants and symbiotic relationships

Finally, the third way of segregating parasitic plants is to understand their relationship with their prey. Myco-heterotrophs are plants that appear to have a parasitic-symbiotic relationship with other plants.

A great example is the relationship between orchids and fungi. The orchids tap into the fungi’s mycorrhizal networks (tubular, filament-like structures that connect fungi to each other and other plants underground) and steal water, minerals and nutrients from the fungi.

Myco-heterotrophs can be either hemiparasitic or holoparasitic and despite masquerading as a symbiotic host, they add no visible value to the fungi.

The curse of the Vampire

Parasitic, cannibalistic plants do not root anywhere. Instead, the seeds look for a host and latch onto the host using the haustoria. A few days after feeding-off their host, the plants begin to voraciously multiply. Soon, the parasites grow to such an extent that they completely cover up their hosts and take over the neighbouring population. The food source is soon sucked dry and killed.

Dodder tree
Image: Dodder plant growth after months of parasitic feeding. The host plant will soon be completely covered and killed.

This feature of parasitic plants has earned them their scary title – The Vampire Plants.

-NISHA PRAKASH

P.S: Featured Image: Vampire Plant