Four different people are responsible for today's entry:
- Dr. Kamarudin Mat Salleh aka Prof KMS@Flickr shared the first two photographs taken in Malaysia by Ng Suan Beng of the female inflorescence of Balanophora fungosa subsp. indica var. indica (original 1 | original 2 | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Dr. Salleh and Ng Suan Beng are part of the Rafflesia Research & Monitoring Team (also see the rafflesia-in-bloom weblog).
- The third photograph, of a male inflorescence, was received from thtungdl@Flickr and taken in Vietnam (original 3 | BPotD Flickr Group Pool).
It has been tentatively identified as Balanophora harlandii by Douglas Justice. It has been re-identified as Balanophora fungosa by Dr. Kamarudin Mat Salleh.
- Douglas is responsible for the written accompaniment to today's entry.
Thank you all for contributing!
Balanophora species are among the most unusual of all higher plants that have been featured here on Botany Photo of the Day. The list of novel characteristics for this genus is lengthy. According to Mabberley (The Plant Book, 2nd ed. 1987, Cambridge), these root parasites are known to parasitize at least 74 species in 35 families (one species, the comparatively well known and widely distributed Balanophora fungosa, has at least 25 host species). Above-ground parts are small and distinctly fungus-like, while underground, the plants produce large tuberous growths without any discernable roots. The tubers are the source for a wax-like substance, balanaphorin, which is the food reserve (instead of starch) for the plants. This material is also used for torches in Java.
Some species of Balanophora are dioecious (male and female flowers are produced on separate plants), while others are monoecious (separate male and female flowers borne on the same plant), such as Balanophora fungosa. In general, the inflorescences burst out of the tuberous structures, leaving a collar at ground level around the base of the flower stalk. Flowers are myiophilous (fly-pollinated) according to some authors. The seeds, which are exceptionally tiny (ca. 7 micrograms apiece) are borne without enclosing carpels. Plants in the genus (and the family, Balanophoraceae) are echlorophyllous (have no chlorophyll) and are holoparasitic (entirely parasitic—completely reliant on their hosts for survival). The 15 species in the genus are all native to the Old World Tropics. For the more botanically inclined, the Angiosperm Phylogeny Web Site and the Parasitic Plants Connection include some fascinating tidbits about the family Balanophoraceae and its relationships to other parasitic plants.