Lithops is a large genus in the Ice Plant Family (Aizoaceae), all native to southern Africa. These plants are often called “living stones”, and indeed they do blend right in with the pebbles in the places where they grow. But they put on an eye-popping show when they burst into bloom, as seen here with the maculate (speckled) form of Lithops salicola, which comes from near Hopetown in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province. This is very near to the center of the country.
These were my favorite plants when I was a kid despite never actually seeing one with my own eyes, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a photo of one blossoming and they’re so beautiful
What about plants that look like vaginas? Got any of those?
surprisingly few! i think it’s because in the plant and fungi kingdoms, the goal in the case of a phallic structure is to get stuff out, whereas a yonic structure might be more geared towards keeping things in, which is only ideal for a plant if you have very special needs for it. you’ve got the parasitic plant Hydnora africana, for instance, which has a cage-structure flower that temporarily traps in beetles that come to pollinate it to increase the amount of pollen it can expose them to:
another is a personal fave of mine, the entire Nepenthes genus of asian pitcher plants, which are evolutionarily geared toward retaining digestive fluid to dissolve insects in for food. here’s a very popular and well known one in the collecting community for it’s unusual shape, Nepenthes aristolochioides:
I’ve just happened upon your fabulous tumblr and have an inquiry. I have been wanting to teach my child who is 9 yo more about botany. I’m a casual fan of it, and not a great teacher. I feel like I get too caught up in the details for him to follow. So, my question is, where could I start? Do you have any resources that could help me in teaching a child this age? I want to make a book of the plant life he can find in our local area with him but want to do it in a way that will be memorable.
(tbh i think the biggest mistake we make when teaching botany to kids is that we dont show them the cool parts. like when we teach kids about animals we show them lions and tigers and elephants and stuff that they may never see in their lives, and then when we get to plants we show them like. petunias and the parts of a flower and that’s it. kids are always enthralled learning about venus fly traps when they learn about them (because they’re cool as hell), but then we fall flat when talking about how they’re a plant you can stumble across in north and south carolina, and how they contribute to the ecosystem there and can be poached just like an endangered rhino or elephant could be.
i remember when i was younger i was under the impression that there were cool and exotic plants and ecosystems somewhere in some dense forest in asia or africa, but certainly nothing strange here, where i live. i was under the impression that i was just unlucky in that i lived in a really boring place for that sort of thing. and then i got older and realized that there were plants around me i never knew existed.
for instance, i was told at a carnivorous plant conference this year that every state in the US has a native carnivorous plant. i thought, “Bullshit, not where i live!”. when i got back to school i searched through our herbarium and found a Utricularia specimen collected in 1975…..in the county right next to where i was born and raised (side note: Utricularia is one of those unappreciated carnivorous plants. they live in still water and waterlogged environments where they put down very, very tiny vacuum-sealed bladders; when microorganisms swim by them, they hit the hairs to trigger the traps and get sucked into the pouch, where they’re then digested. the current theory is that venus fly traps evolved from these!)
in high school, i started learning about thermogenic plants, which are plants that heat up. i was under the impression that they were all very far from me…until i found a species that lived in a protected reserve in rural iowa literally 20 minutes away from my house. it’s a remnant ice age population of about 200-400 plants, and knowing that they were there and had always been was incredible. i went and hung out with them about once every couple months in high school.
so i think the best way to go about it would be to work backwards. native plants are awesome, but when we go to teach animals we don’t start with the native birds in our area; we have to get kids interested first, and then we use that interest to apply it to the things already around us. carnivorous plants are bomb af, and again, there’s a wide range to choose from there (fun fact, we now know that carnivory in plants evolved multiple times independently, so you can find them scattered in with completely normal non-carnivorous relatives!).
as for resources, documentaries are awesome because they show a good broad range of strange species from across the globe (not just carnivorous plants and titan arums). i made a post with my faves here, and lot of them are on youtube. many of the botanists i met at the carnivorous plant conference this summer became enthralled with them in childhood and found themselves falling into botany because of them (there’s still a lot we don’t know about The Hungry Lads)!
also one last thing: i have to recommend for you or him one of my fave non-academic botany books of all time, The Plant Messiah by KEW botanical horticulturalist and local lily pad nerd Carlos Magdalena. his entire job is literally rescuing native plants from the brink of extinction, and this book is basically him talking about his adventures in the field and his passion for botany (and also what he had to do to start his career in it). you may know him as the dude who saved the world’s smallest (and most adorable) lily pad species from extinction. this is him in the KEW’s lily pond, holding one of said Small Lads up for comparison with the world’s largest species:
I have recently discovered Plants. Did you know: if you find a plant you like, you can just… collect its seeds? Or, you can dig it up and plant it somewhere else?? OR (now this one is crazy but stick with me) you can take part of it and grow it into a new plant?!?
Amazing! First, I started small: I noticed some milkweed was spilling floaty seeds everywhere, so I borrowed a couple, planted them, and several months later I had so many Monarch and Queen caterpillars I had to give some away.
Next: I noticed a baby morning glory vine had popped up in my side yard. I didn’t want it in my side yard, so I dug it up, put it in my brand new flower garden, and several months later it has taken over the entire back half of my yard.
Then: my coworker brought in some lemongrass cuttings she’d done, and I planted it in my yard. It exploded and it’s the most massive lemongrass bush I’ve ever seen.
Now that I’ve done my “hands off” experiment with the back yard (conclusion: invasive grasses will completely take over and prevent any natives from taking root), I am ready to become the master of my realm. But I’m still broke as heck. So!
Milkweed vine (Matelea?) and Monarda seeds nabbed from the field at work!
Every mango I ever eat ever again! (Three germinated, started #4 last night)
Ruellia simplex which I *cough* may have borrowed from a park. I took five because I didn’t have scissors or a knife and I didn’t trust my ability in making cuttings but ALL FIVE ROOTED and some are starting to bud!!!
Red yucca from the parking lot at work
It’s contagious! My coworker went for a walk in her neighborhood, and saw a strange tree with these 15 inch long seed pods that look like giant string beans. So of course she took one to give to me. It matured over the weekend, and today I popped it open and LOOK AT ALL THESE SEEDS!!! It’s a Catalpa tree, which is native to the eastern and southern US states. It makes HUGE F-ING flowers which it drops everywhere, making a huge mess. They get TALL. And I have a HUGE HANDFUL of them. What am I going to do with 100+ Catalpa trees?!?! My (not very large) yard is already filling up with trees (though I eagerly await the total consumption of my house into thick wooded forest in the middle of my housing development). I’m thinking Bonsai 😂
Excuse me WHY does something that smol need 1260 chromosomes???
wild fun fact: as far as biology can determine, there is actually very little correlation between the ‘complexity’ of an organism and the amount of DNA it has. most of those 1260 chromosomes are most likely non-coding junk regions that have accidentally built up over the millenia and do literally nothing and are just copied and passed on. a ton of crazy shit can happen in evolution, and when it doesn’t do anything bad, it just kinda…..hangs out, which sometimes results in a huge amount of DNA accumulating that just….is completely nonfunctional.
it also should be noted that for some reason ferns are really, really good at doing some crazy shit with their chromosomes when they fuck. i would explain it here except i do not understand it past that sentence. if there was gonna be an organism in the world with 1260 chromosomes, it does not surprise me in the least that it would be a fern. they just be like that
GO SEE THE BOY AT ONCE! LIVE AT THE DENVER BOTANICAL GARDENS!!!
*wipes away a single tear*
This brings back some fond memories
~*~flashback to June 12, 2011~*~
I am: a student at the University of Washington in Seattle
I have: just impulsively donated blood upon seeing a Donate Blood! sign outside the bioengineering building
I forgot: to eat breakfast or lunch or even a snack cuz that’s how I roll
I’m about to: go to the greenhouse because the corpse flower bloomed the previous night and it was so stinky you could smell it clear across campus despite being closed up in the greenhouse
I see: there’s a huge ass line at the greenhouse because I mean COME ON of COURSE there is!
I stand: in line. It moves slowly. Then, the line enters the greenhouse. It is warm.
I feel: lightheaded… dizzy…
I ask: my friend to get me a soda, which I sit down to drink because I am starting to pass out.
I have: him stand in line for me and text me when he gets to the flower.
It was: worthit
You had to climb a ladder to see into the bloom. It radiated heat.
A single compound leaf
I would have impulsively donated two pints of blood on an empty stomach if that was the price of admission. I would have personally emptied it directly into the flower and thanked it for accepting my offering.