(or, to be more exact, Herbarium)
|In this page descriptions of various animals and plants not included to basic chapters are gathered. The wanishing of the description from this part means that you just must search for new chapter in English version of "The incredible world tour to Neocene".|
water lily (Nataronymphaea pustulosa)
Order: Nymphaeales (Nymphaeales)
Family: Nymphaeaceae (Nymphaeaceae)
Habitat: rivers of Central Africa.
Picture by Carlos Pizcueta (Electreel)
Climatic changes of boundary of Holocene and Neocene have
affected tropical flora. The area of woods was reduced, and thereof some rivers
have dried up
completely. Later, when conditions in biosphere were normalized, the climate
became more damp and steady, and plants have started to evolve actively.
Among them there were species mastering new ecological niches.
Nymphaeas family to which water lilies, candocks, and some other plants belong, from the moment of occurrence at the end of Mesozoic took a convenient place of shallow water plant. But in Neocene among them one unique plant, which has completely lost connection with bottom, has appeared. It is carpet water lily, filled up numbers of plants freely floating on water surface. Thickets of this plant species cover surface of lakes and shallow rivers of Africa from Sahara Nile up to Okavango Lake.
Carpet nymphaea is floating plant of the small size: diameter of crown is at all about half meter (at some of its relatives only one leaf may reach such size!). Leaves are rounded, growing on short petioles. Tissue of leaves is thick and spongy; intervals between nerves are strongly thickened and also filled by lacunose parenchyma, forming air bubbles (leaves look as if “quilted”). It permits a plant to keep swimming. The basic stalk is short, covered with thick spongy crust. At reservoir drying it falls to ground, and sustains drought.
Roots are long; they hang down up to meter depth. They serve to the plant for maintenance of balance, and also for nutrients absorbing. Roots are covered with long hairs and look fluffy. At plants floating near of coast, roots grow into silt, and plant starts to develop more intensively.
Similarly to all floating plants, the carpet water lily breeds mainly by sarments, on which ends young plants develop. For one year from one plant theoretically it can turn out up to three hundred new ones.
Vegetative multiplying is not a unique way of breeding of this plant. The carpet water lily easily and quickly breeds by seeds. It flowers frequently and plentifully. Flowers are small (diameter of flower is up to 5 – 6 cm) and numerous – up to 10 ones and more at the plant. They rise above water surface a little on short peduncles. Flowers are brightly colored and well appreciable from afar: petals are pink, and stamens are yellow. They are pollinated by bees and small beetles. Seeds are covered with layer of spongy tissue, therefore they do not sink. Under layer of spongy tissue there is a dense environment due to which seeds can endure a long drought. They quickly sprout only in fresh rain water. If in water there is a plenty of products of decay, and its reaction is acidic – it is a signal of drought approaching, and seeds stay in condition of rest. Even if adult plants will be lost, the part of seeds remains, and the population of carpet water lily will be restored from them. Sprouts quickly start vegetative breeding – having formed four leaves, the young plant already forms sarment.
Snake-stem oak (Quercus serpenticaulis)
Order: Fagales (Fagales)
Family: Fagaceae (Fagaceae)
Habitat: Mediterranean lowlands, slopes of the Alpes.
Mediterranean lowlands represent the area rather adverse for life of plants. After drying of Mediterranean Sea the climate of Southern Europe became very dry. Only in spring the snow, thawing in the Alpes, forms the rivers which dry soon in sand and among the saline grounds remained from Mediterranean Sea. In this place plants had adapted to endure adverse conditions of environment in various ways. Some of them stocke water in trunks and leaves, others go through dry season as tubers or bulbs, and the third ones turned to ephemers and grow up and produce seeds within short spring time. In this area trees turn the most freakish shapes.
One tree of Mediterranean lowlands does not rise higher than to one meter above the ground surface. But its trunk reaches the length of 30 – 40 meters and even more. Characteristic ackorn fruits indicate the belonging of this plant to oaks, but its trunk resembles more any liana lacking a support. It is a snake-stem oak, one of characteristic plants of Southern Europe.
The trunk of this tree reaches half meter thickness, but sometimes there are specimens having trunks of almost one meter thickness. Plants growing in places with sufficient humidifying – close to channels of drying up rivers or in places where subsoil waters rise higher – reach such size. Trunk is covered with friable dark grey bark, wrinkled with numerous small cracks. Wood of this species is very firm, with a plenty of thin annual growth rings: the plant with a trunk of half-meter thickness can have age of about 300 years. Trunk and branches of snake-stem oak take roots very easily. The main trunk grows, rising slightly, but later lays on the ground and takes roots from the bottom side. Young trunk of this plant is flexible – it bends around stones and thickens, as if filling in emptiness between them. Contours of the plant resemble typical tree crone, but flattened out, uniplanar and expanding in sides. Frequently two or three large branches at the basis of trunk reach about the same size, as the main trunk. Taking roots and keeping stones, snake-stemed oak strengthens mountain slopes. “Love” of this plant to stones has obvious practical orientation – stones are condensers of moisture from air, and the plant receives enough moisture for growth, simply growing roots right under stone.
Leaves of snake-stem oak don’t correspond too close to stereotyped image of oak tree. They are narrow and long (their length is about 10 cm at width of up to 7 mm), with undulate edges. Such leaf shape helps to distribute light and shadow in regular order both on the surface of the leaf, and in depth of crone. Buds and young leaves are covered with rich white downiness; completely grown up leaf has leathery dark green surface, but keeps white downiness on the bottom side. In conditions of sufficient humidifying the plant keeps leaves within the summer, but specimens from droughty habitats can drop leaves in second half of summer and stay leafless up to the next spring.
The tree begins to blossom in early spring, at the appearing of first young leaves; pollen of this plant is transferred with the wind. Small ackorns of snake-stem oak (their diameter is about 6 mm), half hidden in ligneous cupule, ripen in the beginning of summer. They are carried by birds and rodents. These animals frequently make hidden stocks of ackorns, but then not always find them. From such hidden ackorns new plants grow.
cabbage tree (Brassixylon crassus)
Habitat: dry districts of Southwest Asia, Northern Africa and Southern Europe.
The lot of species of plants of Holocene epoch had been named “cabbage trees”. But this name was given to them exclusively for external similarity of some parts of plant to cabbage cultivated by people. But the tree has appeared in Neocene in dry areas of Southwest Asia (in foothills to the east from the Mediterranean lowland), and later settled on coast of Mediterranean swamps, is named more deservedly: it is one of close relatives of cabbage, belonging to the same botanical family.
The true cabbage tree will not make a competition to giant trees of tropical forest: its maximal height does not exceed 13 – 15 meters. But it can survive in places, where dry and hot wind blows and settles on ground thin coating of salts from salt Mediterranean swamps.
In connection with very dry climate in places of inhabiting of this tree, at it the number of adaptations was developed, permitting to survive in extreme conditions. True cabbage tree is stem succulent: very thick trunk similar to a bottle serves to it for accumulating of water stock. It is strongly expanded in the bottom third, and sometimes lays on the ground: it seems, as if tree has not sustained weight of the “beer stomach”. Wood of this plant is fragile and friable, plentifully sated with water. But only few ones venture to drink it: tree reliably protects itself with the help of bitter substances dissolved in sap. Leaves of this tree also have bitter taste. They are juicy and rather wide: the tree leads active photosynthesis the most part of year, running in stagnation (“catalepsy”) only in hottest summer months. But also then the most part of leaves is kept, only oldest ones cast. Young leaves form original crowns on tips of tree branches. Petioles of leaves can make movements, and depending on environmental conditions tree folds leaves in similarity of cabbage heads, or spreads them. Usually leaves are folded together at night and in hottest time of day, being opened in the morning and in the evening. But in cloudy days crowns of leaves may open all the day. Besides for reduction of moisture loss leaves are covered with thin wax cover.
True cabbage tree extracts water from deep layers of ground, therefore it prospers in areas where underground waters approach close to a surface. In rare oases of Northern Africa this tree forms original thin woods both with palms and some other plants.
This plant, as against to cabbage, is perennial: the age limit of it may exceed 200 years. It also blooms more than once in life, but annually approximately from 5-years age. Large pink flowers with four petals in big corymb-like inflorescences open on uppermost branches in middle of short rain season, involving butterflies and flies. Each flower blooms not for long time – only two days and one night. Therefore many flowers of this plant remain not pollinated. Fruits of true cabbage tree look like long and braided, as if a drill, pods. At a touch (for example if any bird sat on inflorescence) ripe fruit “blows up”: folds instantly braid and scatter seeds far. An environment of seeds is naked, but very strong and bright: red with white speckles. Birds involved with such colouring, peck these seeds. But in their stomachs the environment is not digested, but becomes only a little thinner and more permeable. Having dropped out from intestines of bird with portion of dung, seeds have good chances of growing.
The first year young plant has underground tuber-like stalk (“root crop” formed by hypocotyl of sprout, and the crown of small leaves on the ground surface. At the second year growth of trunk begins though the underground thick stalk does not disappear still long time. If the trunk will be damaged (more often simply had eaten), the plant has chance to survive due to underground part.
False-leaved prickly pear tree (Equadopuntia pseudophyllata).
Order: Caryophyllales (Caryophyllales)
Family: Cactuses (Cactaceae)
Habitat: Galapagos Islands, coastal areas.
Galapagos Islands in human epoch had differed in droughty climate: at them there were no constant reservoirs, and fresh water could be found only in rain pools. Therefore the vegetation of three types prevailed at this archipelago: xerophytes (enduring significant dryness of ground), succulents (stocking water in trunks) and mangrove vegetation (able to live in sea water).
Succulent vegetation of Galapagos Islands had been presented by several species of cactuses among which prickly pears (Opuntia) were most typical ones. These cactuses with wide flat stalks had reached the size of tree at Galapagos Isles. Huge local tortoises had been unique animals ate these cactuses. Introducing of goats to these islands even turned to cactus’s advantage: number of tortoises had reduced, and goats were eaten away other plants, had lost cactuses of natural competitors. Therefore prickly pears had remained dominant plants at Galapagoses.
Neocene descendant of Galapagos prickly pears has remained a treelike plant. But changes of climate had forced it to change shape though some basic features of cactuses nevertheless had kept at it. Galapagos false-leaved prickly pear tree grows up to 20 meters in height, and trunk of old tree may grow up to 6 meters in diameter. At this species the differentiation of sprouts to two sharply distinguishing types is precisely shown. Trunk and main branches of this tree are covered with thick, friable and easily crumbled bark. Such bark reliably protects trunk of plant from overheat, thus reducing losses of moisture. Wood of prickly pear tree is friable, watery and rather fragile. During hurricanes some trees fall, but continue to grow, taking roots in ground. Also separate branches of prickly pear tree easily take roots.
Sprouts older than three years keep spikes gathered in bunches by some ones on the surface. On young branches sprouts of other type grow: green and soft oval annual “leaves” almost without spikes. Only on edges of such “leaves” short spikes stick up. Most part of “leaves” of this plant lives only one year, drying and falling down in dry season. Only youngest “leaves” may go through it and keep two seasons in succession.
Prickly pear tree flowers almost the year round, only in summer drought it may stop flowering, simultaneously shed “leaves”. Flowers of this plant are bright red with long petals, up to 10 cm in diameter. They produce a lot of nectar, but are smellless: this plant is pollinated by birds. Fruits of prickly pear tree are sweet and juicy, pear-shaped and covered with spikes. Local birds peck them, eating pulp and carrying seeds, and fallen fruits are eaten by large local tortoises.
Prickly pear tree grows rather quickly, giving for one year apical growth about a meter tall. But this tree lives not for long: no more than 200 years.
The idea about existence of this plant had been supposed by Simon, the forum member.
Coral opuntia (Rhodoopuntia corallina)
Order: Caryophyllales (Caryophyllales)
Family: Cacti (Cactaceae)
Habitat: southern slopes of the Alpes.
Millions years after human disappearance have passed, but traces of human activity in the field of introduction of various species of animals and plants will be kept for a very long time as descendants of these species living in places where they could not get in the natural way. The Mediterranean hollow is surrounded with the Alpes from the north and with deserts from the south, the east and partly from the west. Lands, not poisoned with salt of dried up Mediterranean Sea, differ in dryness, and only few plants can grow there successfully. Among the ones managed to get accustomed in these places, there were cactuses, descendants of prickly pears (Opuntia spp.) introduced by people. Some species of these plants have got freakish shape because of influence of rigorous conditions of habitats.
Plants of Cacti family produce betalains – red pigments close to beet betanin. They give characteristic red color to flowers of cactuses. These pigments absorb ultra-violet radiation successfully and protect the plant from burning rays of sun. In Neocene in Mediterranean lowlands unusually looking species of Opuntia evolved, at which the ability to synthesis of these pigments is amplified in great degree. Therefore its stalks have bordeaux-red color (the chlorophyll is present, but it is masked by red pigment) and are similar to thickets of precious (red) coral, as if it was kept on the place from the moment of sea drying. Hence the name of this plant – coral opuntia.
Because of high content of the pigments synthesized by this plant, petals of its flowers have very dark purple, almost black color, as flowers of the black tulip bred once by people. Occasionally in a population there are carriers of rare gene alleles having citreous, black and green colouring of stalk.
Coral opuntia grows not in marshy hollow, but on southern slopes of the Alpes adjoining to it. Red leaf color is characteristic for mountain plants as in mountains solar ultra-violet rays are especially dangerous. At rather small heights (less than 3000 – 3500 m above sea level) this prickly pear can take the treelike shape and grows almost as big as saguaro (Carnegia gigantea) of human epoch, but branches much more plentifully, forming a crone of flat branches. At such height in its population there are individuals having atypical colouring of stalks as here the intensity of ultra-violet radiation is not so great, and mutants do not receive burns. Higher the coral opuntia strongly decreases in size, loses the basic trunk and at greatest heights, a little below the snow line, it forms an elfin wood of creeping perennial stalks from which shoots of the current and last years rise upwards. Highly in mountains red colouring turns more intensive. Flat stalks of this species are similar to shoots of human epoch prickly pears. They keep the pointed spikes, growing in bunches of 5 – 8 ones, and young sprouts have the underdeveloped leaves similar to little horns and rather rich downiness of thin hair protecting growing tissues against solar burn and frosts. The completely developed shoots become hardier, and flowers and fruits form on them.
Roots are adapted to fastening on rocky ledges. Elfin wood form in high mountains easily takes roots at the bottom part of perennial shoots and plays the important role in prevention of landslides.
This species of plants does not show strict requirements to pollinators; various animals – from beetles and butterflies up to small birds and rodents can carry the pollen of these cactuses. Flower buds are formed at the edge of last year’s shoots in winter. In spring and in the beginning of summer unusual black flowers of this plant blossom. They are strongly heated up in sunlight and involve carrion-eating flies and beetles. And the insects gathering on flowers, in turn involve insectivorous birds. Fruits of coral opuntia have very dark colouring and are covered with glaucescent layer of wax. This cover reflects ultra-violet rays, making fruits more appreciable for birds. Also rodents and other mammals eat fruits of this cactus. Carnivores willingly eat fruits fallen from treelike cactuses of this species, being involved with a moisture contained in them. Pulp of fruits is sapful, dark red and very sweet; tiny seeds are dispersed in pulp. In dry years the pulp of fruits can not reach the complete ripeness, but seeds normally develop and can even sprout right inside the fruit. This feature gives an additional guarantee of survival of sprouts. In typical case seeds are distributed by birds and mammals.
This species of plants was discovered by Anton, the forum member.
Naked halopuntia (Halopuntia nuda)
Order: Caryophyllales (Caryophyllales)
Family: Cacti (Cactaceae)
Habitat: Mediterranean lowlands, saline soils.
In Neocene there is no more adverse place for life of plants, rather than areas of the former Mediterranean. Collision of Africa and Europe, continued for millions years, had resulted in closing of strait of Gibraltar and drying of Mediterranean Sea. Giant amounts of the salts formerly dissolved in water, appeared on land after water had receded and evaporated. Salt had impregnated the ground, having made it unsuitable for growth of plants. Only Mediterranean “oases” formed on heights support vegetative life which feeds the poor animal population. And in salt swamps the creatures, able to resist salt, prosper. Wast space of the hollow is covered with the crust of salts and gypsum, and only in few places in cracks of firm minerals a stunted vegetation can exist.
In such conditions there is no place to competition – it is replaced quite with difficulty of life in such environment. And ones had found a way of survival prosper even in such rigorous conditions – on the heated waterless ground under hot rays of sun.
On Mediterranean saline soils one species of plants grows, which is a descendant of the species introduced by people. It is naked halopuntia, the representative of cactuses, a halicole spikeless opuntia.
This plant represents a branching bush about 1 meter high, forming dense cushion-like thickets. This species resembles externally a prickly pear of human epoch, because the external shape of the plant has changed only a little, and it turned smaller in comparison with taller ancestors. Halopuntia has the same segmented stalks made of thick oval-shaped segments. But at close look it is appreciable, that the cactus does not have spikes, very characteristic for ancestral prickly pears. One more difference from prickly pears of human epoch is a color of plant: it is covered with plentiful wax film and has silver-gray colouring.
Reduction of the size of this plant is connected to adverse conditions of existence; at life on the salted ground a lot of energy is spent for pumping out of ions of sodium and chlorine through cell membranes against a gradient of concentration. The plant accumulates in the tissues water with rather low concentration of salts, and surplus of salt is secreted by special glands on the surface of cuticle. Salt is initially secreting as very rich brine and stiffens on the surface of a plant as drops. Due to layer of wax it does not dry on the thin skin of shoots; as accumulation proceeds, crystals of salt break off and fall, or they are blown off with a wind. Salt is secreted mainly on old shoots, and young sprouts are reached with the sap already deeply filtered from salt.
The root system of halopuntia is very advanced, as at the majority of desert plants: it exceeds stalk many times in the size, and it is fair to assert, that the most part of cactus is hidden under the ground. The bottom parts of stalks form a caudex covered with thick layer of dry skin which protects this plant from penetration of salt. The root system of halopuntia is located in top layer of the ground, at the depth up to 10 – 15 cm under surface level. During rare rains it quickly absorbs water, while salts in ground are not dissolved yet. In dry season the tips of roots wither, and roots become covered with dense peel interfering the drying out.
Usually naked halopuntia is imperceptible from apart – colouring of this plant merges with a landscape spotted with white areas of salts. Therefore the rare herbivores, venturing to go far into salt desert, do not notice the plant. Growth of this plant occurs in two waves – in spring and in an autumn when air is rather moist. In summer, in peak of heat, halopuntia runs into a condition of catalepsy, and stays in rest in winter. Flowers of this species are bright red, large (their diameter is over 10 cm) and multipetaled, with a characteristic wax cover on petals which reflects ultra-violet rays and involves pollinator insects. During the flowering thickets of halopuntia become seen from apart, and there is a probability of their damage by herbivores. Fruit of this plant is a berry characteristic for cactuses. The pulp of fruits has sweet taste with slight saltish taste. It is eaten willingly by birds distributing tiny seeds of halopuntia.
Halopuntia grows very slowly, and the survival rate of sprouts is lowest. The plant easily breeds by cloning: the wind can break off a part of branch which takes roots successfully in the ground and can live for a long time due to internal stocks of water. Life expectancy of this plant is more than 100 years.
This species of plants was discovered by Anton, the forum member.
cactus (Platyopuntia compassa)
Order: Caryophyllales (Caryophyllales)
Family: Cacti (Cactaceae)
Habitat: Mediterranean lowland, Northern Africa, deserted areas.
Extreme conditions of existence cause occurrence at live organisms living in such conditions of various adaptations for the survival which frequently give freakish shape to their owners.
In arid areas at the north of Africa and along the edge of Mediterranean hollow the complex of vegetation is formed, including various species hardy to extreme conditions of existence. Some of them grow and develop in more favorable season while the sun heats not so intensively, and survive in summer drought as tubers or bulbs. Others have time to live the whole life within several weeks and exist in difficult time as seeds. And the third ones do not hide anywhere and resist to drying up heat successfully.
People introduced American prickly pear cactuses to the Mediterranean region. They successfully developed in these places even without people; therefore they had kept after human extinction and their descendants began the expansion in arid areas of Mediterranean hollow. One of Neocene species of Old World opuntias is a compass cactus. This plant is named for prominent feature of growth: its flat branches are always oriented along the north – south line by an edge; therefore hot beams of midday sun slide along their surface and do not cause burns.
Compass cactus keeps characteristic shape of its ancestors: it has flat stalks made of flattened segments. Segments have rounded outlines, are rigid, gristly, strongly squeezed from sides and fibrous. Outlines of the plant are fan-shaped: all branches are located almost in the same plane and do not overlap each other at the side view. At this plant some perennial stalks are kept - its “trunk” and “branches”, and the significant part of shoots does not live more than three years. In due course of growth sprouts change shape and functions. One year old shoot is covered with thin layer of wax protecting tender growing tissues from solar burn and giving glaucescent color to the shoot. For the second year shoot grows ripe and loses wax cover. Its surface gets bright green color, and shoot begins active photosynthesis. Very large spikes of compass cactus grow not so densely, but are ligneous and strong. Herbivores live in deserts seldom, but protection against them is necessary all the same. The height of plant does not exceed one meter.
Some shoots of the second year form only vegetative buds, but at the majority of them flower buds are formed. At the third year of shoot existence in the beginning of spring flowers blossom. They are white and small, with numerous dulled petals, and are located along edge of shoot segment in groups of 4 – 7 ones. Petals of these flowers are covered with a layer of wax due to what they reflect sunlight and are appreciable for rare pollinator insects.
After pollination on the plant small edible berry-like fruits of reddish-pink color ripe; they have sourish taste and numerous tiny seeds. At the ripening of fruits the segment, on which they ripen, gradually dries out, giving to fruits the nutrients stored up in the previous year. Simultaneously on such shoot spikes fall down. Dried up segments of stalk with fruits remain on the plant where they are found by the birds, which are the main distributors of seeds of compass cactus. When all fruits appear eaten, shoots gradually wither and fall down. This way natural thining out of the plant crone takes place. The broken off one-year-old shoots perish, as a rule. The two-year-old shoot stocked up enough nutrients, can live, not taking roots, till three years in extremely droughty conditions. Due to such survivability it easily strikes roots in favorable conditions – a rare rain is enough for it to take roots in the ground. Gradually during the next three – five years it forms a normal-shaped plant and starts blossoming.
opuntia (Adansopuntia obesa)
Order: Caryophyllales (Caryophyllales)
Family: Cacti (Cactaceae)
Habitat: savannas and semideserts of northern Africa.
In human era cacti of prickly pear genus (Opuntia) were introduced to the Mediterranean region. After the disappearance of mankind they survived climate change and became widespread in arid regions of the Old World, giving rise to various life forms. The largest of the descendants of prickly pears in the Old World is the baobab opuntia. It is a large tree, similar to a baobab in appearance, size and shape, but upon closer inspection it turns out to be a cactus. This species preserved and enhanced the characteristic-to-cacti ability to store water in its trunk, so that it can withstand prolonged drought and grow in an environment where other woody plants die.
The trunk is about 20 m around, but the height of the tree is not too great – also about 20 m. The wood of this species is friable, with plenty of water storing parenchyma, and an outer layer is strengthened with a network of fibers. The lower part of the trunk is unbranched, the first large branches grow at a height of about 10 meters. Perennial branches are rounded in cross-section, the young growth until the age of three years is similar to the typical flattened stems of prickly pears. Young branches are thorny; spines up to 5 cm long, with jagged edges, are gathered in groups of 4-7 ones. Trunks of young plants are also spiny, but the spines disappear as they grow. The bark of the trunk of the adult plant is smooth and spineless, but very dense and thick – up to half a meter at the base of the trunk. Thus the plant protects itself against rare desert herbivores who want to get primarily to the succulent wood. This plant endures damage of the bark very easily, quickly restoring the lost parts of the bark. Also, the thick layer of bark serves as protection against overheating.
The baobab opuntia’s flowers are very large – about the size of a dinner plate, bright red and having many petals. They appear on biennial shoots; buds are formed in autumn and winter. The tree in bloom is an unforgettable spectacle. Pollination is generated by insects and birds, which it tempts with watery nectar. The fruits are the size of a grapefruit, with red-purple flesh, sweet and juicy. They are eaten by monkeys, who are among the main seed distributers. In dry areas harelopes and birds feed on its fruits.
Seedlings successfully develop only in rare rainy years, when they have time to store enough water to survive the dry season. Usually the first two years of the plant’s life are critical for survival. Baobab oputia blooms for the first time at the age of about 15 years, having reached 4 meters in height. Life expectancy is more than 1000 years.
The idea about existence of this species of plants was proposed by Anton, the forum member.
Translated by FanboyPhilosopher.
Mole cactus (Cryptocactus subterraneus)
Order: Caryophyllales (Caryophyllales)
Family: Cacti (Cactaceae)
Habitat: Mexican desert, arid areas with a low precipitation level.
Cactuses belong to the plants most adapted to arid conditions. Almost all cactuses, except for the most primitive ones, are stem succulents, and their green stalks incur functions of both leaves and water-stocking organs. Stalks of cactuses take various shapes – from small spherical ones up to huge barrel-like and even treelike plants. The exceptional variety of cacti species indicates their success in struggle for existence.
As a rule, the stalk of cactus is perennial though in Holocene epoch there were separate exceptions of this rule. In Neocene among cactuses the species had evolved, which had departed the common rule: its each stalk actually exists less than two years. This cactus is very original “invisible” plant: it can be seen only within several months per year. Every other time this plant is hidden under the ground from hot sun rays; and this plant is named because of this feature – it is a mole cactus.
The occurrence of mole cactus at the ground surface begins from its flowers. Shortly before a season of spring rains, when the winter cool gradually leaves, bright red flowers, appreciable from apart, about 4 – 5 cm in diameter blossom right at the ground surface. Usually there are some of them. Insects notice them due to feature of a structure of petals – they reflect ultra-violet light intensively because of special structure of petals. This species is pollinated by various insects – even ants and beetles feed in its flowers. After pollination petals fade, and under the ground ripening of the fruit, a small rounded berry with numerous tiny seeds and sapful pulp begins. Usually one or two berries develop successfully on the same plant, and only in very favorable conditions their number may increase. Berries ripen to the beginning of summer, and the pedicel, growing roughly, takes them out to the ground surface, where they are eaten by rodents and birds.
When the flower is pollinated or has simply faded, active growth of stalks of this plant begins. Shoots of mole cactus are spherical and have numerous not deep plicas on the surface. Colouring of plant skin is bright green with glaucescent wax film; there is white downiness at tops of stalks and in areolae. Spikes of this plant are strong, but not numerous. In every areola there are one long hook-like spike and some smaller straight ones. With the help of hook-like spikes shoots of this cactus are hooked on wool and feathers of large inhabitants of desert. They easily break off the basis and thus are settled to long distances. Shoots of the current year grow from a last year’s stalk which is located under ground and gradually gives all saved up nutrients for growth of new stalks and fruit ripening. In due course of stalk growth and seed ripening last year’s shoot gradually corrugates and then dies off, and to the middle of summer new stalks already begin to grow independently. In such way during some years in succession the initial plant forms some kind of a clone expanding as almost right ring. Usually flowers and fruits appear at the internal edge of ring, and new shoots grow on external side. Diameter of stalks of mole cactus reaches 6 – 8 cm.
In the middle of summer, when last year’s stalk dies off finally, every young plant forms some long thick roots which stretch downwards and branch at small depth. They represent a kind of “anchors” for the plant, but their role in its life is much more important. When weather becomes too hot, roots begin drying up and convolving. Thus they form significant effort which draws the plant under the ground. Till one or two weeks cactus hides under ground, and these stalks will not appear at the surface any more. Thus spikes gradually weaken and fall off, breaking at the retraction of the stalk under ground. In darkness the stalk gradually loses chlorophyll and becomes similar to tuber. During the winter buds form on it, and from them the next year flowers and new stalks will appear.
Mauritian false-berry tree (Pseudobaccodendron mauritianus)
Order: Caryophyllales (Caryophyllales)
Family: Goosefoots (Chenopodiaceae)
Habitat: forests of Mauritius Island.
In human epoch flora and fauna of Mauritius Island had put heavy on trail – till some centuries as much species of plants and animals had been introduced to this island, as, probable, had evolved her during millions years of natural evolution. The degradation of primal flora and fauna of island and its full extinction up to Neocene had been quite natural result of it.
In conditions when the primal Mauritian flora appeared in depression, the introduced species had started to evolve actively. In favorable tropical conditions even grassy plants became giants and had turned to trees. One of such trees, Mauritian false-berry tree, is widespreaded in humid valleys and coasts of island. Its ancestor is one species of orach (Atriplex) introduced to Mauritius by people. At the process of evolution orach had turned from grassy plant at first to woody half-shrub, then to bush, and farther to tree. At the continents the goosefoots family is represented mainly by grassy plants, but occasionally among them treelike forms appear. Saxaul (Haloxylon) is one of such species. It is adapted to extreme desert conditions and shows an opportunity of occurrence of treelike plants in family represented mostly by grasses. As against saxaul, false-berry tree has not got used to such Spartan life: this is a plant of tropical forest preferring moisture and an abundance of sunlight.
The height of false-berry tree may be up to 20 – 25 meters at thickness of ridge trunk up to 3 meters at the basement. This is the tree with powerful deep root system (as the answer to presence of hoofed mammals in Neocenic fauna of Mauritius) and firm white wood. Bark of false-berry tree is thick, covered with deep longitudinal cracks and colored light grey. The crone of this tree is similar to cypress one – it is high and pointed to top.
Leaves of false-berry tree are externally similar to willow ones – they are narrow and oblong, richly covering young sprouts. From above each leaf is covered with microscopic bubbled hairs protecting from surplus of sunlight and giving to tree crone the silvery shade appreciable from afar. There is especially large amount of hairs on young leaves having pinkish shade. Hairs protect from solar burns, disseminating light reaching the surface of leaves, but prevent the water evaporation. However, the plant has the adaptation solving such problem: at the edge of leaves hydatodes (water excreting glands) are located. From time to time from them the drop of water emits and is quickly got rolled from the leaf due to hair cover. Therefore, animal wandering in thickets of Mauritian false-berry tree may get wet quickly even in dry day. This tree grows in river valleys and near bogs.
False-berry tree blossoms extremely ordinary: tiny flowers pollinated by wind do not have petals, and it is possible to detect externally the flowering of tree only having examined its flowers specially. Tiny flower without petals is the common feature of family representatives. But the fructifying tree is appreciable from apart. This plant has received the name because of the appearance of fruits. At the most part of plants belong to goosefoots family fruits are usually dry, densely covered with wrapper of sepals and falling off in common with it. The juicy fruit looks the exception from the rule. And false-berry tree is just one of such exceptions. At it to the moment of seed ripening the calyx does not dry out, but expands, overgrowing fruit from all sides, and becomes juicy and even sweetish. Ripen fruit of false-berry tree in size is like a large cherry. Its color also changes: the calyx becomes bright red and is appreciable from afar on a background of silvery foliage, involving birds and monkeys eating fruits. Ripen fruits are easily showered from wind, and they are eaten willingly by local land animals: very small forest pigs and dryocaprellas – dwarf descendants of goats.
When the seed of tree passes through the stomach of animal, its environment becomes more permeable for water and it sprouts easier. Numerous germs of false-berry tree perish or appear oppressed in shady underbrush. In shadow their growth is strongly slowed down, and plants as though stop in growth at height no more than one meter. The majority of such young plants may be eaten by local herbivores. But when any old tree falls, young sprouts of false-berry tree start to grow further quickly. In first year they grow up two meters, having “slipped by a mouth” of local dwarf herbivores having the minimal damage. Further rate of growth decreases, but the tree trunk starts grow thick and at its basis powerful plank-buttress roots grow.
False-berry tree lives till 300 years and more, and starts to fructify from 10-years age, having reached about half of maximal height.
Mexican clawleaf (Phyllonyx mexicanum)
Order: Fabales (Fabales)
Family: Peas (Fabaceae)
Habitat: deserts of Mexican plateau.
In deserts plants grow, able to resist to severe environment and to win in rigid and uncompromising struggle for existence. At them there are two main enemies – dryness and herbivores. And plants during the evolution develop various strategies. In desert stretched on Mexican plateau, one of plants had adapted to repulsing herbivores.
When in desert spring begins, from the ground accurately closed feather-like leaves appear. They quickly grow, forming compact crowns. Each complex feather-like leaves about 30 – 40 cm long consists of approximately ten pairs of oval simple leaflets up to 3 cm long. On the tip of each leaf the middle nerve forms very acute spike. This feature has determined the name of this plant – Mexican clawleaf. Spikes are very widespread weapon of desert plants. But the clawleaf has added to this feature of structure one more skill, characteristic for peas (however, not only for them only). In the basis of each leaflet there is the layer of tissue consisting of cells able to pump up water fast and to release it. It gives remarkable properties to leaves.
Usually crowns of clawleaf freely lay on the ground, and leaves are stretched towards to the sunlight. But if the herbivore will touch to them, the surprising transformation comes: leaves start to close, folding along the middle nerve, and simultaneously rise upwards. The plant literally before the eyes “bristles up” with spikes. If it is not disturbed any more, in some minutes leaves take former position again.
This plant maximally fully uses time favorable for growth. In spring clawleaf vegetates actively, growing foliage. Not less roughly it grows under the ground. This plant reserves water in underground tubers covered with thick peel. On the peel there are large warts – it is not the display of disease, but the feature absolutely necessary for life of plant. Colonies of nitrogen-fixing bacteria live in these warts. These symbionts help the plant to receive nitrogen necessary for growth right from air, and due to them clawleaf can settle on poorest soils, and prospers in places where other plants decay. Growing up, clawleaf forms affiliated tubers on long fragile stolons. When any large herbivore (for example, bear porcupine, the characteristic inhabitant of Mexican desert) digs ground and eats main tuber, stolons break off, and affiliated tubers, not noticed by this animal, survive.
Soon after development of young leaves the plant begins to blossom. Flowers of clawleaf are zygomorphic, with well advanced standard petal. They are brightly colored – lilac with silvery strips converging in fauces of flower. Hairs have property to reflect ultra-violet light, due to what insects notice them from apart. This plant is pollinated mainly by bees and beetles. The nectar of flower is hidden deeply in fauces, and to get it, the insect must creep in depth of flower. At this moment stamens touch its back, and the insect appears strewn with pollen. One of desert insects, cactus hawkmoth, can simply “steal” nectar. This moth hangs in air in front of flower, pushes long thin proboscis between petals, and exhausts nectar, not making pollination.
Each flower blooms not for long – about four days. But this plant forms long inflorescence on which flowers are placed in clusters, therefore as a whole the plant blooms till two months and more. If the pollination has passed successfully, fruits are formed approximately of third of flowers. To the moment of fruit ripening the peduncle lies down on grass. Fruits at clawleaf are special – each fruit contains only one large (up to 2 cm long) flat seed. Usually fruits of leguminous plants dehiscent because of non-uniform drying of fibers penetrating their parts. But at clawleaf the fruit is not dehiscent, and on its tip the double bent spike covered with bristles develops. Such fruit resembles spoon-bait with fish-hook, and on one peduncle it is total up to two tens of such fruits. To the moment of ripening the fruit keeps on pedicel very poorly – it is ready to meeting with animals which distribute them. Large praire groundowl, marsupial hyena or bear porcupine are main distributors of fruits of this plant. Having clung to their covers, fruit of clawleaf is carried by them on large distance. Sooner or later the animal combs it out from body covers, and fruit falls on the ground. Near the shelter of owls or dust baths of bear porcupine congestions of this plant form often. The seed keeps germinating capability for a long time, and because of dense cover germination is usually delayed. It is the expedient tactics – the plant will not sprout during the casual rain, after which it may be some more weeks of hot dry weather, or during short-term winter warming. At the first year of life clawleaf forms only the crown of short leaves; for the second year leaves reach the typical size, and since the third year of life the plant blossoms.
Trickster tree (Pseudonecrodendron mimicus)
Order: Fabales (Fabales)
Family: Peas (Fabaceae)
Habitat: Japan Islands, humid mountain forests.
In the nature the phenomenon of a mimicry is very usual, at which the unprotected species survives due to similarity to the protected neighbour. Usually animals protect itself in such way, and insects, spiders and snakes in particular. In Neocene there are even birds which imitate the protected neighbours. Among plants examples of mimicry are much rare, but they also take place. At the Japan Islands one of the largest species of toxic plants of the Earth grows – “death tree” (Necrodendron mortalis). Poison literally impregnates it, protecting reliably against the majority of herbivores. Only few insects can harmlessly eat its leaves, and even use poison of this tree for self-defense.
One neighbour of “death tree”, the trickster tree, in due course of evolution had got significant similarity to the deadly neighbour. This plant very precisely imitates young growth of “death tree” – leaves of these species are very similar at first sight, and also emit similar bitterish smell which considerably amplifies at casual injuring of the leaf. But, when “death tree” belongs to the number of giants of Japan forests, its imitator does not grow above five meters even in its better condition. Moreover, in due course of growth this plant develops numerous lateral shoots and forms multi-stalked bush.
Leaves of trickster tree are similar to a leaf of “death tree”, but they are not compound, but deeply dissected simple ones. However, this feature has not an effect for external similarity of two plants, and herbivores equally diligently avoid eating their foliage. But trickster tree with all evidence “betrays itself” during the flowering – the young growth of “death tree” simply does not begin blossoming at such size. Flowers of trickster tree also differ in great degree from ordinary-looking flowers of “death tree”, bearing characteristic features of flowers of pea family plants. They develop in leaf axils and are white, growing one by one, large (length is up to 3 – 4 cm) and well appreciable from apart. Flowers of trickster tree are labiate and have dense petals; banner is densely pressed against keel and the pollinator animal must make some efforts in order to reach nectar. Flowers of trickster tree produce nectar at night especially intensively because they are pollinated mainly by moths and small species of bats. In the evening and in the early morning flowers of this plant are visited by solitary bees. Occasionally beetles can reach nectar of these flowers, simply biting through their petals at the basis.
Fruits of trickster tree represent long spirally twirled legumes containing numerous large seeds with dense environment. At drying the ripened legume becomes very sensitive to touches. The casual touch causes sharp twisting of sides; thus seeds are scattered to great distance. Seeds of trickster tree can keep viability during very long time. They are found frequently by rodents willingly eating seeds of trees. Usually they eat seeds at once, but sometimes make stocks, burying some of found seeds in secluded place. Frequently such stocks remain unclaimed, and from them young trees grow.
Trickster tree is a photophilous plant. It grows plentifully in places where any large tree has fallen and in forest canopy the gleam is formed. At sufficient illumination trickster tree roughly develops and forms rich thickets which constrain development of sprouts of other species of trees for many years. When surrounding trees gradually close by their branches a gleam in forest canopy, trickster tree gradually degrades. Its growth becomes less; the significant part of branches dries out and crone becomes thiner. In shaded place this plant grows and blossoms, but feels like oppressed and does not reach the maximal size.
Hunting tree (Prolesrobinia venator)
Order: Fabales (Fabales)
Family: Peas (Fabaceae)
Habitat: steppe areas of Eurasia.
In XVII century various acacia species had been introduced to Eurasia as ornamental plants – in human epoch trees of several genera had been known under this name. Among them there was also clammy locust (Robinia viscosa). A distinctive attribute of this 12-meter plant was a presence of sticky hair of glandulous downiness richly covering sprouts, petioles and flowerstalks. After human disappearance, during the period of early Neocene congelation this species appeared at the edge of extinction, but extreme conditions had broken a unite area of species to some isolated sites and this circumstance sped up evolution of this plant. And in Neocene steppes of Eurasia the descendant of Robinia grows – the hunting tree. Like fly-catching tomato, hunting tree displays an early stage of specialization to feeding on insects and other small invertebrates though this specialization is more expressed, rather than at fly-catching tomato. Hunting tree is the largest predatory plant of Neocene, reaching up to one and a half meters in height. In appearance this plant is similar to Holocene ancestor, and also to other acacias of Holocene epoch. It has long odd-pinnate leaves consisting of 8 – 11 pairs of small rounded leaflets.
As well as at ancestral species, sprouts, petioles and flowerstalks of hunting tree are richly covered with sticky hairs. But, as against the ancestor, this is an adaptation for hunting. A lot of thick and sticky liquid with the smell attractive to insects is secreted on hairs. If the insect lands on this liquid, it sticks and then hairs grow into prey’s body. Each hair represents huge cell with strong cytomembrane. When the insect lands on leaf and sticks to hairs, the substances secreting by its body stimulate the penetrating of hair top into the tissues of insect. The top of hair starts to divide actively and sprouts into the body of prey as a chain of thin-walled cells which absorb its liquid contents. After prey is exhausted, hairs penetrated into it die off. Old leaves stop the liquid secretion and participate in photosynthesis for certain time. Hunting tree is dangerous even to small vertebrates like small tree frogs. Growth of foliage is slowed down by an autumn. Young leaves stop growth and secretion of sticky liquid, and old ones fall down. In spring growth of this plant recommences.
Flowers of hunting tree are large and beautiful, having pinkish shade. They are gathered in narrow double-row bunch and rise above the crone on long flower-bearing stems, in order to prevent casual landing of pollinator insects on trapping hairs. Near flowers lack of trapping hairs not to interfere with process of pollination. Flowering of hunting tree takes place in the middle of summer during two or three weeks. Fruits of this species represent long thin legumes. Their sides at drying curl like hard spiral and scatter seeds far from parent plant.
Hunting tree is photophilous, but it also loves damp ground. It grows at the riverbanks and at the coasts of lakes, frequently on marshy ground. Within the first years of life this plant develops due to symbiosis with bacteria in root nodules, but in adult condition it receives a significant part of nitrogen from the caught prey, and nodules on roots decrease. At the third – fifth year of life this plant starts blossoming. Life expectancy does not exceed 20 years.
This species of plants was discovered by Odin, the forum member.
fuchsia tree (Dendrofuchsia penduliflora)
Order: Myrtales (Myrtales)
Family: Willowherbs (Onagraceae)
Habitat: temperate areas of South America, northern part of Tierra del Fuego.
Picture by FanboyPhilosopher (flowers are pollinating by tajin hummingbird)
Plants of fuchsia genus (Fuchsia) in human epoch had been
a characteristic component of flora of temperate and subtropical areas of South
America. They represented bushes with characteristic hanging flowers of tubular
shape pollinated by butterflies, moths and birds. In Neocene one species of
this genus had made a successful attempt to develop the new vital form, and
had turned to small tree. Nevertheless, this vital form is rather changeable:
at the north of an area this plant represents semi-deciduous tree up to 8 meters
in height, but at the south of area it sharply decreases in growth and turns
first to multi-stalked bush, and then to deciduous elfin wood form with creeping
trunk about 10 meters long which winters under snow. It is dendrofuchsia, or
Leaves of this plant are leathery, dark green and ovate with the dulled tip. Surface of leaf between large nerves is slightly inflated. At the north of an area in the beginning of winter only old leaves fall, and at the south of area the plant loses foliage for winter completely. If young sprouts freeze slightly, the plant is quickly restored from resting buds. Because of it at the south of an area this plant usually has richly ramified sprouts. At the north of an area sprouts of dendrofuchsia are long and slightly hanging. Wood of this plant is friable and rather fragile. At the north of an area where plants keep foliage for winter, during sudden snowfalls the trunk of dendrofuchsia can not sustain loading and breaks. But the plant does not perish – its sprouts take roots easily, and the plant continues development as a lying bush. At the first years of life the annual growth of dendrofuchsia reaches 1 – 2 meters.
During the flowering dendrofuchsia represents a true gem of forests of the utmost south of South America poor in bright colors. In spring, when the temperature of air raises and days become longer, on tree numerous flowers blossom. Hanging flowers of tubular shape with four peaked sepals and four rounded petals are very similar to flowers of common fuchsia. They are formed on sprouts of the last year. One flower-bearing stem bears a cluster of three or four flowers. Flowers are changeable in colouring, but are always colored in shades of red color which is distinguished well by birds, their pollinators. In the most typical case calyx of flower is dark red, and petals are carmine pink. During the flowering the tree is entirely covered with flowers, and the foliage is hardly distinguished among the mass of flowers. Blossoming dendrofuchsia is easily seen from apart – the red mass of flowers is notable on the background of surrounding bushes and foliage of Nothofagus – dominant kind of plants of the utmost south of South America. This plant is pollinated by local butterflies, moths and migrating tayin hummingbird. Dendrofuchsia is exclusively cross-pollinating plant.
Fruits of this plant are berry-like and sapful, with thin skin and tiny seeds. They are distributed by fruit-eating mammals and birds. Life expectancy of dendrofuchsia does not exceed 60 – 80 years.
paranepenthes (Paranepenthes dearmatus)
Order: Nepenthales (Nepenthales)
Family: Nepenthaceae (Nepenthaceae)
Habitat: Southeast Asia, Jakarta Coast, Sunda Land; rainforest canopy.
Among branches of trees and sprouts of various lianas of tropical rainforest of Southeast Asia there are various species of carnivorous plants of family Nepenthaceae - true Old World pitcher plants, and related to them flowerleaf having more specialized trapping leaves imitating flowers of some plants. But in the neighbourhood with these plants their relative grows, which, as opposed to these plants, had developed completely other form of relations with small inhabitants of forest canopy. This epiphytic plant is named armourless paranepenthes. It has long creeping stalks covered with air roots. It attaches to thickets of moss and creeps on bark, having densely attached to layer of moss covering it by very short sucker-like roots. The stalk of this plant reaches length of 3 – 5 meters and more.
Leaves of paranepenthes have the shape characteristic for representatives of family: they are large, pitcher-looking, and their volume reaches two liters. Edges of leaves are colored dimly, and cap is wide and has long outgrowths on edges. Leafstalks, as at true Nepenthes, had undertaken a role of photosynthesizing organs – they are strong, expanded leaf-likely with rounded outlines.
“Standard” representatives of family use pitcher-like leaves as traps, but paranepenthes has no nectaries and digestive glands on the internal side of pitcher leaf (hence the name). In leaves rain water simply accumulates, and it strongly involves various climbing animals. The plant has entered symbiosis with them, and uses their dung and excretions as fertilizer, receiving from them mineral and organic substances necessary for growth. Climbing frogs and crabs living in forest canopy use these leaves as constant shelter. Besides various mosquitoes lay eggs in leaves of paranepenthes. To use substances emitted by its “lodgers”, in the bottom part of pitcher leaves of paranepenthes fibers develop, with which help the plant absorbs excretions of animals. Sometimes air roots from overlying sprouts grow gown in leaves.
The adult plant of armourless paranepenthes develops up to 20 – 25 normally advanced leaves and turns to “apartment house” for various tree-climbing frogs and other moistureloving animals.
Because the plant is not “interested” in insects as food source, it has adapted to pollination by butterflies and hymenopters. Its 4-petaled flowers about 3 cm in diameter are gathered to big spike-like inflorescences. They are colored bright pink and emit sweetish smell.
wood crassula, “egg tree” (Dendrocrassulopsis ovifolium)
Habitat: Southwest Asia, Atlas mountains.
Ice ages are characterized by climate drying: huge amounts of water were accumulated in glacier, the level of ocean lowers, and at the place of shallow seas land areas appear. Evaporation of water is reduced, and as a consequence, smaller amount of rains falls. Expansion of area of continents results in sharper temperature contrast between coasts and land areas far from sea. In such conditions number of moisture-loving plants is reduced, but hardy species, able to reserve water in organs and endure cool winter climate, prosper. In Old World among such hardy plants it is possible to note crassulas family, distinguished by significant variety. When in ice age instead of Mediterranean sea the salt desert had appeared, at its edges, rather free from salt, various crassulas prospered. Later, when climate began damper, some of their representatives had got absolutely fantastical appearance.
Wood crassula is heavy-build succulent tree with creeping trunk which is easily taking roots in ground. Its height is not so big: about 3 - 4 meters, but the trunk frequently reaches 1 meter thickness. Roots of this plant grow near the ground surface and do not grow deeply in ground, but they are spread to big area, permitting to gather rain water very fast even after the lightest rain which had hardly moistened dust. At drought the part of roots may die off, but in rain season they restore very quickly. Superficial root system is a bad support for trunk of plant, therefore wind frequently fells massive plant down. However it does not cause inconveniences to the plant: tumbled down sprouts quickly grow roots, and tree continues life.
The bark of wood crassula is very thick and friable – it serves for thermo isolation, protecting tree trunk from solar burns and overheat.
Leaves of this plant are thick, prolonged-spherical form, covered with thin wax film, gathered at tops of sprouts. Their length is about 5 cm at thickness up to 4 cm. In leaves lifted above the ground and inaccessible to the majority herbivores, the significant part of stock of moisture, which has been saved up by this plant, is concentrated. Besides each leaf is a pledge of original “immortality” of plant: as well as all crassulas, this plant may multiply by rooting of separate leaves.
This original plant lives not for long: no more than 10 years, giving for this time a significant biomass due to leaves have taken roots on the ground and branches grown in different sides.
Wood crassula concerns to monocarpic flowering plants, and it means, each plant of this species blooms only once per life, and after flowering quickly dies off. Flowering begins at the end of dry season. On each sprout ordinary-looking white flowers open in a plenty, emitting out strong aroma. To them flies and beetles living in desert fly basically. Flowering proceeds a long time: about one month. For this time the irreversible exhaustion of plant begins: leaves collapse, becoming similar on wrinkled sacks, and eventually cast. The trunk of plant appreciably “grows thin”, on it longitudinal furrows appear, and bark falls off by large pieces. To time of seed ripening tree is completely exhausted, and during damp season completely decays. But seeds have fine chances to survive: during rain season they have time to sprout and young plant may save up enough moisture for surviving in drought.
fig (Ficus platycaulis)
Habitat: mountains of Southern and South-Eastern Asia, steep slopes.
In human epoch figs differed in big variety of vital forms: among them it was possible to meet trees, bushes and lianas of any size. Figs may form the original vital form banyan: one tree, expanding in sides and giving numerous prop roots, may form the true wood. Among figs “suppressors” squeezing by numerous roots tree trunk in which forked crown they begin growing, and gradually suppress and replace it in forest canopy, are also known. In Neocene among various figs in tropics of Old World the climbing species have mastered hillsides have appeared.
Rock fig grows in conditions of plentiful rains and high temperature the year round. This plant begins its life as an epiphyte when its small seed gets in crack of rock where moss and vegetative dust accumulate. The sprout quickly starts growing, clinging by rich brush of adventitious roots for the slightest cracks. Gradually thin stalk expands and reaches next cracks where it fixes and continues reaching upwards. Gradually stalk becomes thicker, lignifies, and roots start to penetrate into cracks of rocks, filling and fastening them more deeply, as if cement. The stalk of adult plant accrues more in width, than in thickness: it is flat and band-shaped. The plant plentifully branches, covering with itself huge areas of hillsides. The length of stalk can reach 100 m and more, and the area occupied with plant may number up to several thousand square meters.
Certainly, such heavy green mass of a plant can not exist only due to poor mineral feed, founded by roots in cracks of rocks. Having grown up to certain size, rock fig lowers long crampons from rocks downwards to ground. In the beginning it is only one thin shy root reaching to the ground. And sometimes it must grow down to some tens meters. When it reaches ground, additional inflow of mineral feed stimulates the further growth of plant, and some roots begin growing to ground. Being bound and branching, they grow into ground and grow thick, becoming similar to tangle of giant snakes.
Rock fig forms on hillsides and stony sites original “oases”, involving numerous birds and insects. Besides the plant strengthens slopes and interferes with landslides. Certainly, sometimes especially strong landslides tear down thickets of this plant, but all the same the fig rather quickly restores from survived branches.
Leaves of rock fig are small, heart-shaped and skinny. They form continuous cover, under which various insects and spiders find shelter, and also mosses and lichens plentifully expand. The tip of each leaf is strongly extended to original “dropper”, characteristic for tropical plants of damp climate. In damp hot weather it seems, that under thickets of rock fig there is a constant rain – drops continuously fall from leaves of plant, and flow down in streams from stones on which it grows.
Inflorescences of this species are ordinary-looking, as at all figs. These are small green “berries” - siconiums on stalk and large branches. Rock fig is pollinated by microscopic wasps living only in its inflorescences. Larvae of wasps destroy a part of seeds, but staying ones will suffice for reproduction of this plant. Ripen fruits of this species are small, red - brown, very sweet and soft. Birds are the basic carriers of seeds of this plant. They swallow fruits entirely, disseminating seeds of rock fig both with dung.
Mushroom-leaved begonia (Begonia fungifolia)
Order: Begoniales (Begoniales)
Family: Begoniaceae (Begoniaceae)
Habitat: Southeast Asia, rocks; epilithic plant.
Mountain slopes in Southeast Asia represent a favorable place for growth of grassy plants had got used to be content with a small amount of ground and moisture. Rains plentifully spill on rocks, but water quickly flows down on them, and plants had developed the adaptations, allowing to keep and to accumulate moisture.
Among thickets forming on rocks a species of plants, which may be easily confused with fruit bodies of any mushrooms, frequently grows. It seems, as if among moss the set of uniform mushrooms with green leathery pileus and the thicken stem covered with hairs has grown. But among thickets of these “mushrooms” thin flower-bearing stems bearing clusters of tiny pink flowers rise. These flowers are very characteristic – thy have four petals and three-edged “winged” ovary. They indicate to the belonging of their owner to extensive Begoniaceae family. In Neocene some representatives of this family turned to trees, but the majority of them remained grassy plants. The present species of begonias is named mushroom-leaved begonia.
It is semi-succulent plant, at which aquferous tissue is advanced. Begonias of tropical forest have large and thin asymmetric leaves. At mushroom-leaved begonia leaf, on the contrary, is small, rounded and leathery. Its diameter does not exceed 8 – 9 cm. Leaf of this plant has almost regular rounded outlines, gristle-like consistence and smooth top side with slightly pressed nerves. As opposed to the majority of begonias with bright leaves, leaves of mushroom-leaved begonia are dim: they have dark green color with lighter border, and along large nerves from the centre of leaf the stripes of bright green color stretch, forming star-like figure.
The leafstalk is attached in the centre of buckler-like leaf and is the main water-reserving organ of this plant. Leafstalks at this begonia are inflated and similar to stalk of mushroom. They are bright green and semi-translucent; the most part of their volume is made of water-reserving parenchyma. The surface of leafstalk is covered with hairs that reduce evaporation.
The root system of this begonia is fibrous and consists of set of thin roots. On stalk of plant numerous additional roots develop. During a rain this plant soaks up water, which is quickly reserved in leafstalks. The stalk of this plant represents thick creeping rhizome; leaves are kept only at the top part of sprouts. Leafstalks are slacky attached to rhizome, and break off at small effort. The broken off leaf keeps viability due to a stock of moisture in leafstalk for a long time. At the place of fracture additional buds develop, from which young sprouts grow. While the root system is poorly advanced, they grow due to stocks of the moisture kept in a leafstalk.
Mushroom-leaved begonia blossoms almost the year round, except for several weeks, when the amount of rains is minimal. It is pollinated by insects of various species – mainly by bees and butterflies. Tiny seeds of this plant simply spill out from the opening pods, and they are carried with wind.
Silver brachybegonia (Brachybegonia argentimaculata)
Order: Begoniales (Begoniales)
Family: Begonias (Begoniaceae)
Habitat: Southeast Asia, rainforest canopy.
Begonia family including numerous species in human epoch showed relative poverty at the genus level – at that time there were only four genera of which three ones included only one species, and only Begonia genus was very variative and widely settled in tropics. In Neocene among begonias original species of begonian trees (Begoniodendron) had evolved, representing an original attempt of begonias to enter large size class and to form new vital forms. At the level of grassy plants evolution of begonias had also proceeded, and in Neocene at the territory of Southeast Asia the genus of epiphytic plants brachybegonia (Brachybegonia) related to begonias had evolved. These plants had developed life in forest canopy and represent exclusively epiphytic grassy forms. They keep the characteristic asymmetrical leaves growing in two rows. The stalk of brachybegonias is very short, and leaves lay on each other. Leafstalks are also so short, that leaves seem growing directly from the stalk, forming the symmetric crown. Roots of these plants are very thin and tender; root system is diffuse. Roots of brachybegonias branch plentifully and penetrate into cracks on bark of tree, strongly fixing even large bushes on its branches.
The bottom leaves in the crown, the oldest ones, differ in shape and color from top ones. They are more rounded, shorter and wider. Colouring of such leaves is dim. When the plant develops completely, these leaves appear in shadow. But they do not die off, and serve as original traps for organic substances. In them dust, rests of bark and dung of birds and insects is gathered. From stalk, and even from leaves growing higher the additional roots sprout here, and the plant receives an additional feeding. A similar role is played by sterile fronds of “staghorn fern” (Platycerium) which also is kept in tropical forests of Neocene. Thus, brachybegonias and “staghorn fern” represent an example of convergence.
The top leaves of brachybegonias differ strikingly from bottom ones. They start to develop when the plant will grow stronger enough. These leaves are larger; they have long tip “dropper”, and leaf surface may have a pattern of strips and spots, similar to pattern of begonia leaves.
Brachybegonias had inherited from begonias ease of vegetative breeding. Formation in leaf axils of long sprouts on which tips crowns of leaves develop is typical for them. Such “offshoots” easily come off sprouts and take roots in suitable places. On leaves of some species the sprouting buds develop, which give rise to young plants.
Breeding by means of seeds plays an important role in settling of plants to longer distances. Adult plants grow from top of the main sprout a flower-bearing stem on which the inflorescence develops – a cluster of several tens, and at large species even of hundreds small flowers. Fruit of brachybegonia is a capsule filled with dry smallest seeds. They are easily carried by wind to several kilometers away from parental plant. After flowering the stalk dies off, but in its basis from buds one or several lateral shoots develop, replacing parental plant. One shoot lives up to four years at large species, and no more than two years at small ones.
Various species of brachybegonias differ from each other in shape and colouring of leaves, in size of adult plant and amount of flowers. Silver brachybegonia lives in the top level of tropical forest. Its crowns reach 50 – 60 cm in width and total up to 10 – 15 leaves. The top side of leaves is almost entirely covered with small hairs, giving silvery shine to the leaf surface. Only in the middle of leaf closer to the place of leafstalk attachment hairs are absent and leaf has typical green color and smooth surface; the bottom part of leaf is always covered with white downiness which in due course thins. Young leaves look almost white because of rich downiness. Also flower-bearing stems of plant are hairy. The inflorescence of this species is corymb-like. Flowers have a colouring sharply contrasting with colouring of leaves – they are dark red. They are pollinated mainly by solitary bees and flies of various species. This species lives in tropical gallery forests of Indochina.
Live-bearing brachybegonia (Brachybegonia vivipara) differs from other species of this genus in higher ability to vegetative breeding. It has large leaves with serrated edge, dark green with reddish middle, covered with rough rigid hairs along the edge. On denses along the edge of leaf adventive buds are formed, and from them small daughter plants develop. The inflorescence represents sprawling cluster of several tens bright pink flowers. This species is common in humid mountain forests of Jakarta Coast.
Climbing brachybegonia (Brachybegonia scandens) had choosed another tactics of vegetative breeding. This species forms rather short runners having ability to branch and take roots in nodes. From the crown of parental plant in various sides runners grow. The part from them takes roots in bark and in thickets of moss, and continues growth upwards or downwards. The shoots having no abilities to take roots stop growth and die off soon. Successfully growing runner branches and continues growth in length. Having reached up to the place where humus accumulates, such runner takes roots and forms a young plant. Leaves of this species form the crown of about 50 cm wide of rounded leaves of bright green color with small denticles along the edge. The surface of leaf is covered with short thin hair of red color. This species blossoms, forming high peaked cluster of several tens small white flowers. Climbing brachybegonia grows in warm rainforests of lowland areas of Jakarta Coast and nearby islands, preferring the top part of forest canopy.
Giant brachybegonia (Brachybegonia gigantea) from tropical forests of Hindustan and Southeast Asia represents the largest species of the genus. It forms huge leaves – up to one meter long at width of about 70 cm. Leaves of this species are entire-kind and have denticles along the edge. Their colouring is bright green; along the edge narrow pinkish-red border is stretched. On smooth surface of leaf separate spots of white color are scattered, located more often in the place of attachments of leafstalk to leaf plate. The flower-bearing stem reaches the length of two meters and bears up to one thousand tiny red flowers. This species produces a small number of runners, but they easily take roots in nodes and stretch along tree trunk and branches to the distance up to five meters.
Graceful brachybegonia (Brachybegonia elegans) is the smallest species of the genus – the width of its crown does not exceed 10 – 12 cm. Its rounded leaves have bright red color with green irregular-shaped border varying from separate “leakages” and “splashes” up to wide border reaching half of leaf radius. It grows quickly and gives plentiful offsprings. The adult plant starts to form lateral shoots even before flowering. The flower-bearing stem of this species is very long in comparison with the size of the plant – it reaches almost half-meter length. The inflorescence of this species is a cluster of large pink flowers hanging on long pedicels. This species is widespread in humid forests from eastern part of Hindustan up to the south of Jakarta Coast.
Dissected brachybegonia (Brachybegonia dissecta) has leaves of unusual shape. First leaves of this plant are ordinarly looking rounded ones. But in due course of growth and maturity they change the shape – between nerves cuts appear, and the largest leaves have cuts as deep as one third of general width of leaf. This adaptation helps to avoid the shading of bottom leaves by top ones. Leaf surface is smooth, dark green with separate dark red spots. Width of crowns of this plant is about 40 cm. This species inhabits the bottom part of forest canopy where an effect of lack of sunlight takes place. Dissected leaves represent the adaptation permitting to compensate it. This species is widespread in lowland forests of Jakarta Coast and Indochina.
Tree-climbing tectobegonia (Tectobegonia repens)
Order: Begoniales (Begoniales)
Family: Begonias (Begoniaceae)
Habitat: Southeast Asia, tropical rainforest.
In human epoch begonias were exclusively grassy plants or suffrutices. In epoch of ecological crisis caused by human activity many species of these plants became rare, and even had died out. But after disappearance of mankind and restoration of tropical forests begonias could develop other vital forms. Among them begonian trees (Begoniodendron) and epiphytic brachybegonias (Brachybegonia) had evolved. And on trunks of trees of tropical rainforest of Southeast Asia their relatives climb upwards. It is easy to find out begonia descendants in them: leaves of these plants have characteristic unequal-sided shape. But appearance of this plant is atypical for begonias – leaves grow on stalk in two lines, overlapping each other, as if a tile. Hence the name of this plant – tectobegonia (from Latun “tectus” – covered).
The stalk of tectobegonia is very long – at old specimens it reaches the length of 6 – 8 meters. The stalk nestles densely against the bark of trees, and the plant creeps on the surface of tree trunk. It is root-climbing liana similar ti ivy (Hedera) - in stalk nodes a plenty of white strong roots develops, penetrating into the bark and moss pillows. Stalk is flattened and ribbon-like. It is fragile and easily breaks off; besides the plant branches and total length of stalks of one individual can reach 20 – 30 meters. Usually this plant begins its life, taking roots in vegetative dust. The first weeks of life sprout grows vertically, but then lays and begins creeping. Gradually shoots get the shape typical for the present species: they begin creeping on a substratum, stalks turn ribbon-like, internodes turn shorter, and then leaves grow, overlapping each other like tile. Tectobegonia grows in rainforests and such phyllotaxy helps to deflect streams of rain water. The plant grows quickly and its shoots creep to light forest canopy soon. At old specimens initial roots and the bases of stalks die off, but the top part of stalk does not perish. It continues growth as an epiphyte, nourishing due to humus which accumulates in hollows and among branches. This plant is well adapted to vegetative breeding: the broken leaf easily takes roots, and forms a normal plant shortly.
Leaves of tree-climbing tectobegonia are dark green and rounded, with the lengthened tip extended as a “dropper”. Leaf length does not exceed 5 cm; width is up to 3 cm. In shadow leaves look ordinary, but at the sunny place, when the plant appears in the top part of tree crone, silvery spots appear on leaves.
During the flowering tectobegonia forms in leaf axils short flower-bearing stems on which rich spherical clusters of tiny white flowers grow. On young leaves in the basis of flower-bearing stem large silvery spots appear, involving insects from apart by shine. Usually tectobegonias are pollinated by butterflies and flies, less often by solitary bees.
Fruit of tectobegonia is a winged capsule. Tiny seeds of these plants (weighting some milligrams only) are carried by wind.
begonian tree (Begoniodendron oxyphyllus)
Habitat: tropical forests of Southern Asia. Close species are expanded from Zinj Land up to South-Eastern Asia.
In Holocene epoch exclusively perennial grassy plants had belonged to begonian family; at some species annual sprouts died off, but large perennial tuber was kept. Among these plants there were ground grasses (frequently they were too sizable), grassy lianas and epiphytes. But in Neocene epoch, when the structure of wood vegetation in tropics had essentially changed, among begonias treelike forms, representatives of begonian trees (Begoniodendron) genus, had appeared. Plants belonging to this genus differ in attributes characteristic earlier for grassy begonias. They grow very quickly - the annual height increase reaches five meters and even more. Wood of begonian trees is friable, very sappy and fragile. Sometimes during strong winds the tree trunk breaks, but this event does not bring a big harm to tree: one more feature inherited from grassy begonias, ability to vegetative multiplying, has an effect. The tumbled down tree laying on the ground easily takes roots. From trunk vertical sprouts start to grow, and branches bend upwards. This way one tree turns to rich thicket. Through any time the part of trunks will be choked and will be lost, but some trunks will develop normally and gradually thickening will grow up to height 25 - 30 meters - usual height of begonian trees.
Except for it begonian trees have kept ability to multiply by rooting of branches and even separate leaves.
Due to growth rate begonian trees are pioneer vegetation of tropical woods. They are among first plants settling on free ground where the old tree has fallen, or on river deposits (begonian trees are too water-resistant plants). They grow quickly, but live not for long time: no more than 50 - 70 years if they will not be fallen down with any storm.
Wood of begonian trees, rather soft and sappy, would be fine food for every possible larvae of insects. But trees of Begoniodendron genus have developed the special strategy of protection against them, having developed one of features of their ancestors. Sap of begonian trees is true chemical “cocktail” of every possible organic acids – malic, citric, and even formic and acetic ones. At various species the structure of sap varies, but the principle of its action stays constant: larvae of insects practically do not live in very sour environment, and development of mushrooms and bacteria is essentially suppressed.
As well as grassy begonias, begonian trees differ by original oblique leaves. They are colored not as brightly as at small grassy begonias, but at some species on leaves there are silvery spots and downiness, and some species have graceful dissected leaves. These are evergreen trees.
Having reached about ten years' age, begonian trees start to blossom plentifully. Small pink four-petal flowers of these trees are gathered to large corymb-like inflorescences. They are surrounded with two brightly colored bract leaves/ Pistillate flowers grow on ends of branches in medium and bottom part of crone, and staminate ones blossom out basically at top of tree. If insects visit flowers not so actively, that is chance of pollination by means of wind. Begonian trees bloom practically all year round. Only in places with seasonal droughts flowering interrupts at two - three months. Seeds of begonian trees are very tiny. They are carried by wind to far distance; therefore begonian trees frequently grow on islands of Indian Ocean.
Sour-leaved begonian tree is the typical representative of genus. Its height is up to 20 meters. This species meets in river valleys, sometimes forming there dense thickets. This plant endures flooding of roots during high waters, keeping stability with the help of well advanced plank-buttress roots. The trunk of this tree receives additional durability because it is not cylindrical, but ridge-shaped - as five- or six-sided prism. It is connected by that this species of trees grows in places where strong winds frequently blow. The bark is colored grey: it protects tree trunk from overheat.
Leaves of this tree are dark green with numerous silvery spots; edges are denticulate. Length of leaves is about 25 cm, width is up to 7 – 10 cm. Bracts are very large (length is up to 30 cm), rounded, dark red with scarlet spots. The surface of bracts and leaves differently reflects ultra-violet beams, therefore insects easily notice flowers of plant. Flowers are small, light pink, gathered in clusters of 30 – 40 ones. Fruit is three-edged pod.
Other species also belong to begonian trees genus:
“Silver hand” begonian tree (Begoniodendron chira-argentea) is settled on islands of Indian Ocean. Its height is up to 15 - 20 meters. Trunk is thick, “bottle-like”, adapted to storage of stock of fresh water. The rootage is not deep (tree avoids salted subsoil waters of islands), but is submitted by powerful plank-buttress roots growing far in sides – they keep tree from falling during gales sweeping over islands. Leaves are about 20 cm long, rounded, dissected to five – six lobes, and plentifully covered with silvery hairs. Hairs serve for protection against superfluous sunlight, and absorb water during rains. Bark is dark grey and thick.
Flowers are bright red; bracts are pink. It flowers in season of monsoons, at lack of moisture casts a part of foliage.
Sprouting begonian tree (Begoniodendron proliferus) lives at the East-African subcontinent, and inhabits tropical woods. Its height is about 25 meters. It grows in forest wood, avoiding swampy soil. Leaves are oblique-heart-shaped, with large jags on edge, light green with red spots between main nerves. In place of attachment of petiole on blade the additional bud develops. On branches especially strongly lighted by the sun, it starts to develop in young plant. This time 1the attachment of petiole to branch weakens, and during a storm such leaves with young plants take off from parent tree and are carried away by wind to many tens meters aside. Leaves of parent plant serve as sails, increasing range of flight of young plants. Having fallen on the ground, such offspring quickly takes roots and starts active growth.
Pink flowers are small. Bracts are very large and red-colored.
Creeping begonian tree (Begoniodendron repens) grows in rainforests of South-Eastern Asia, most frequently meeting in mountain woods and on steep riverbanks. At this tree it is impossible to tell unequivocally, what is possible to think “height” – the main trunk of this tree in the beginning grows upwards, then lies down and continues growth in horizontal direction. From it numerous thick vertical trunks branch off. Such kind of growth permits a plant “to wedge” between large trees, considerably outstripping in growth sprouts of competitor trees. To “fix” achievements, the horizontal trunk actively grows thick. The length of basic trunk may reach 50 meters and more, vertical trunks of 2-nd order reach 15 - 20-meter height. On river breakages the basic trunk can overhang downwards, growing downhill up to the water, forming sometimes original natural “bridges” across small rivers.
Leaves are large (length is up to 40 cm, width is about 30 cm), oblique-heart-shaped, edge of leaves is wavy. The tip of leaf is strongly extended to “dropper”: it is a common feature of plants of damp rainforest. Leaves are colored dark green with faltering silvery strips along large nerves.
Bracts are silvery with several green spots; flowers are large and pink.
Desert cyclamen (Aridocyclamen macrotuber)
Order: Primulales (Primulales)
Family: Primroses (Primulaceae)
Habitat: deserts of Mediterranean lowland.
During millions years Africa moved to the north, aside Europe. And millions years after human disappearance it has resulted in significant changes of environment in Mediterranean area. When strait of Gibraltar was closed, Mediterranean Sea had dried up very quickly, and instead of it the severe salt desert was formed, edged by swamps with lifeless supersalt water. Drying of the Mediterranean had considerably changed a climate of Southern Europe – it became dry and severe, with significant seasonal and daily differences of temperatures. The desert is crossed with some small rivers. Some of them run into swamps, and others dry in sand. All of them have head waters in Alpine glaciers and give life to not numerous inhabitants of desert.
Dry deserts stretch as a ribbon along edges of areas of former sea-bottom covered with a crust of salt. These areas differ in severe climate, but nevertheless they are populated with plants capable to reserve or to keep moisture. In desert there is much more plants, than it seems at first sight. For desert the perennial plants are very characteristic – these ones are ephemers, blossoming in spring, when the ground is humidified enough with streams of water flowing from mountains.
One of the most beautiful plants of the Mediterranean desert is desert cyclamen, the representative of ephemeral vegetation. This species is the native from the Alpes, the descendant of European cyclamen (Cyclamen europaea). It lives at the coast of temporary reservoirs, where the moisture in ground is kept longer.
This plant develops within two months in spring, while ground is moistured enough. The desert cyclamen survives in summer, autumn and winter in condition of big spindle-like tuber. At the depth of about 40 cm, where there is a tuber, the ground softens differences of temperatures and protects it from the majority of herbivores. But during the vegetation the tuber literally creeps out upward, closer to the sun. This property of a plant is connected to features of its structure. Roots of desert cyclamen are very long. They reliably keep this plant in ground, and have ability to twist at drying. In spring roots impregnate moisture and push a tuber closer to ground surface, and in the beginning of drought they contract and involve tuber deeper under ground. In foothills of the Alpes there are populations of this species able to vegetate much longer, rather than in desert. But this species differs in lowered competitiveness - desert cyclamen is very photophilous plant and does not suffer shadowing.
In spring, when the ground becomes enough humid, the plant starts to grow. Within several days it promptly develops 4 – 5 large rounded leaves (their diameter is up to 15 cm) on long leafstalks. Leaves have a grayish shade because of layer of wax developing on them. After that desert cyclamen begins to blossom. Its flower-bearing stem quickly expands and reaches the height of 70 cm. No more than 2 – 3 large flowers with petals curved back by characteristic way keep on plant simultaneously. Flowers emit intense aroma, which becomes especially intensive to the evening. This plant is pollinated by butterflies and solitary wasps. Wasps especially frequently visit flowers of desert cyclamen. These insects search on the plant not only nectar, but also gather from leaves wax necessary for construction of nests. Flowers of desert cyclamen are pink with silvery edges of petals reflecting ultra-violet light that helps to involve insects.
To the beginning of summer at desert cyclamen seeds ripen. As against an ancestral species, which seeds very quickly lost germinating capacity, seeds of this species can keep germinating capacity till 3 years – in the changeable world of desert conditions are not always favorable for sprouting, and the part of shoots simply can be lost. But in ground always there is a reserve of seeds of desert cyclamen. Seeds have strong environment on which the edible oily appendage grows. Due to it they are pecked out willingly by birds, with which help this species is settled. Desert cyclamen frequently grows in “oases” of Mediterranean swamps.
Digitate wing-seeded maple (Pteracer palmatus)
Order: Sapindales (Sapindales)
Family: Maples (Aceraceae)
Habitat: warm and humid forests of Southern Europe (Balkan), Caucasus and Asia Minor (at the southern coast of Fourseas).
In Holocene the wood flora of Europe had benn tested for survival rate. People had cut down earlier almost continuous and impassable woods and after that test the ice age had came. When Mediterranean Sea had dried up, and instead of it the hot desert had formed, woods of Europe had kept only at the narrow strip between northern tundra and rigorous salt Mediterranean desert. Woods had remained at the south of Western Europe irrigated by clouds from Atlantic, and also along mountain ridges of Alpes and Carpathian Mountains. Rather large forest areas had formed in the Balkan.
When the warming began in Europe, woods had started to settle actively farther to the north. At that time people had already disappeared and the wildlife evolved according its own laws. In Neocene the edge of warm climate area had moved closer to poles, but it occured not in all parts of Eurasia. Eurasia is a huge land and the area of sharply expressed continental climate. Significant territories of this continent are removed far from large reservoirs making climate steady and humid, therefore at the northeast of Eurasia winter is still cold and snowy.
At the south and east of Europe the influence of Fourseas is felt, and attributes characteristic for tropical plants have appeared at descendants of species of temperate flora. These features are wide and often compound or dissected leaves with “droppers” – pointed tips. Nut-tree, chestnut, maples and sycamores are the typical species making the European subtropical woods of Neocene epoch. The strict competition has caused occurrence of effective adaptations for breeding and settling.
Wind carries above crones large flat seed having two wide transparent wings. From each capful it flies up higher ana higher, and flies to long distance. It had fallen down from the high tree reaching 30 – 35 meters height. This is tree of average size in European subtropical forests – it belongs to species makinf forest canopy and does not “stick up” above it. At this tree there is umbrella-like crone, and on flexible young branches clusters of the same winged seeds swing.
The seed of this tree with two big wings indicates the origin of this plant: this tree is the descendant of maple (Acer) which various species were characteristic for Northern Hemisphere. For the characteristic form of seeds this plant is named wing-seeded maple. At the maple the fruit consists of two seeds having one wing is characteristic. At ripening they break up and keep in air due to rotation of falling seed around the axis. At at fruits of wing-seeded maple one fruit of the pair is reduced and from it only wing remained. The rest of this seed is small scar on one side of flat disc-shaped seed having two wide wings. Blasts carry such seeds far from parental tree. The seed is easy also and can stay in air for a long time, reacting even slight wind whiffing.
If it will have luck to appear in place favorable for life and to sprout, eighty – hundred years a huge tree of wing-seeded maple will develop later from it. Trunk of adult tree of this species is straight; till the growth its lower branches fall down. At adult tree first large branches remain at height of 20 meters from the ground. The trunk of wing-seeded maple is covered with smooth grey bark covered whith constantly shelling small scales – such feature does not permit this tree to overgrow by epiphytes forming in favorable conditions “hanging gardens” weighting up to tens kilograms. Some thick plank-buttress roots growing in the bottom part of trunk provide to it additional stability. Such roots start to develop since the tree reaches approximately half of normal height.
Leaves of digitate wing-seeded maple are typical for plants of humid wood: they are dissected to 7 – 9 pointed lobes separated to 9/10 of their length and arranged on petiole like fan. Tissues of leaves are rather soft. Leaves grow on young sprouts in pairs, and reach diameter of about 50 – 60 cm. Young leaves of this tree are pink with bright crimson strips along main nerves: it is so-called anthocyan colouring protecting against sunlight. The mature leaves of digitate wing-seeded maple are light green, but along nerves darker zone stretches. Nerves of mature leaves are white.
This plant is semi-deciduous – in the autumn, at first cold snaps wing-seeded maple casts approximately one third of old leaves and falls the relative rest till 2 months. On branches only the youngest foliage remains. At the north of area this tree can lose almost all leaves. The rest period is very important feature of wing-seeded maple: at this time at tree flower buds are formed.
The foliage prevents pollinator insects to find flowers, therefore tropical trees produce flowers more appreciable with the help of strong smell or bright colouring of corone. At wing-seeded maple the inflorescence is long and carries set of small five-petaled flowers. This tree is pollinated by bees and wasps. Flowers are located by clusters on long peduncle hanging from branch down. Flower of this tree is about 2 cm in diameter. It is yellow, fragrant, with short petals and wide receptacle in which middle two carpellas grow forming the structure similar to head of ancient key. After pollination one ovary is reduced, and the second one develops. The wing of reduced ovary reaches the same size as at normal ovary, and as a result one large seed with two wide wings keeping in air for a long time is formed. It sprouts in spring and starts to grow quickly.
Usually in underbrush many sprouts of this plant grow, but the most part of them perishes not having found favorable conditions for life. Till the first year of life the young plant reaches height of about two meters. First years of life wing-seeded maple can grow in shadow of underbrush competing with other plants, but do not receiving the necassary amount of light it starts to wither. If the old tree closing access to light to underbrush falls, young wing-seeded maple starts to grow quickly, aspiring to pass competitors. This tree begins to blossom first time at the age of about forty years, having reached height of approximately 20 meters. The maximal life expectancy of this plant reaches 400 years.
Umbrella-leaf horse chestnut (Aesculus umbelliferus)
Order: Sapindales (Sapindales)
Family: Horse chestnuts (Hippocastanaceae)
Habitat: the Balkan, Carpathian mountains, Caucasian peninsula, southern and western coast of Fourseas.
The forming of Fourseas rendered significant influence to the climate of surrounding territories. At the Balkan the narrow strip of land between mountains and coast of Fourseas has turned to area of widespreading of original kind of subtropical forests formed by descendants of northern species of trees. Tree species growing here are remarkable with their broad leaves on which tips characteristic “droppers” develop for removal of water surplus. In winter trees cast a part of foliage and stop growth, but this period is rather short, and annual growth rings in their wood are expressed poorly.
One of characteristic inhabitants of subtropical forests at the coast of Fourseas is umbrella-leaf horse chestnut. This tree is easily distinguished from apart because of its original leaves which differ in great degree from leaves of other trees of these forests. At umbrella-leaved horse chestnut leaves resemble palmately compound leaf of its ancestor, horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), but differ from it in several features: size and number of leaflets. Umbrella-leaf horse chestnut has giant leaves similar simultaneously both to umbrellas and to fan-like leaves of palm trees. The leafstalk of each such leaf is about one meter long and up to four centimeters thick; it carries leaf plate of about one and a half meters in diameter, which is made of 15 – 19 approximately equal leaflets expanded and rounded on the terminal part. The midrib in each leaflet forms thin extended dropper.
Having huge leaves, umbrella-leaf horse chestnut is very exacting to presence of water. This tree grows along riverbanks and occasionally develops even at marshes where grows on drier areas. Most frequently this species of trees grows in forests along the coast of Fourseas.
Bark of this tree smooth and dark grey. Umbrella-leaf horse chestnut can reach height of 25 – 30 meters. Usually it is one-trinked tree, but frequently it produces radical offsprings and grows several trunks, forming dense crone. However, more often such trees break on separate trunks and fall, because each trunk forms asymmetrical one-sided crone, and the trunk can not sustain weight of foliage and branches. Trees with normally advanced crone can grow till 300 years and more. As they grow, tree trunk becomes ridged – a kind of original “edges of rigidity” appear on it, like the resemblance of plank-buttress roots of tropical trees. Due to a friable bark respiration of roots is provided and this plant successfully grows on overmoistened ground.
In winter umbrella-leaved horse chestnut loses a significant part of foliage. On branches only youngest leaves remain, which do not reach the complete development and grow only up to 30 – 40 cm in diameter. And the strong frost can kill them at all and then the huge tree stands leafless. But in spring, when warmth returns, the tree quickly puts on new foliage. The leaf of this plant develops very quickly – for one week it reaches the usual size. At the same time tree begins blossoming, becoming a true ornament of subtropical forests.
Inflorescence of umbrella-leaf horse chestnut umbellate is thyrsoid one up to one meter high. Flower-bearing stems rise vertically, as at its ancestor. Flowering begins from lower part of inflorescences. Flowers of this tree are rather large – their diameter reaches 4 – 5 cm. They are zygomorphous and have white color with yellow middle; in fauces of flower black specks are scattered. This tree is not specialized to the certain pollinators. In its flowers butterflies, beetles and solitary bees search for food. Very frequently birds visit flowers of this tree, playing an important role in pollination of this plant. In due course of deflowering each flower of this species changes colouring from white to yellow and pink. Right before falling off petals get crimson-red color for one or two days.
Fruits of umbrella-leaf horse chestnut are similar to fruit of its ancestor – they are large and leathery; the environment is covered with short spikes. However, in each fruit not one, but two seeds ripen, as it was, obviously, at ancient species of this genus. However, the second ovule has secondarily appeared at this species. In due course of evolution the umbrella-leaf horse chestnut had adapted to distribution of its seeds by small animals, and its seeds are rather small – their diameter is only about 2 cm. They are distributed by forest rodents and birds. In autumn woodpeckers eat seeds of this plant.
Many seeds of this tree appear eaten in autumn and in winter, but some ones succeed to escape, and they sprout. This tree begins to blossom first time at the age of about 30 years, at height of about 10 – 15 meters.
Crimson-leaved balsam (Impatiens cinnabarifolia)
Order: Ericales (Ericales)
Family: Touch-me-nots (Balsaminaceae)
Habitat: rainforests at the north of Meganesia, sites of broken forest stand and riverbanks.
Symbiosis between plants and animals is more often forming relatively to pollination of plants to which the certain species of pollinators adapts strictly, and its presence guarantees reproduction of plant. Less often the plant forms the shelter to insects like ants, which protect it from pest insects.
One species of grassy plants, crimson-leaved balsam, has established symbiotic relations with the representative of vertebrate animals that is a rarity in flora in itself. This plant entered symbiosis with one local bird, the gardener bowerbird (Hortulornis plantarum-cultor). Two circumstances have allowed to symbiotic relations to be established: requirement of bird for bright objects on the one hand, and red anthocyan colouring of young leaves of plant, on the other hand. Probably, ancestors of the present species of bowerbird originally simply broke off such bright tops of plants and dropped them around of their bowers for attraction of females. Tops of balsam plant easily take roots, and this plant in many cases started to grow near constructions of bowerbirds. Gradually evolution of bird had gone in direction of maintenance of life of such “ornamental plants”: birds broke off sprouts of other grasses in order to make raising bush even more appreciable and by that reduced a competition of balsam to other plants. Besides birds tried to choose for cultivation plants with brightest leaves. Similar relations had formed characteristic shape of this plant.
This species of plants expands well at enough of light – in sites of broken forest stand, and also at riverbanks. Leaves of crimson-leaved balsam have bright anthocyan colouring – they are green with numerous red spots, and the youngest leaflets are completely ruby-red. This species differs in fast growth and development: from germination of seed up to the flowering less than four months pass. If the plant develops without care on the part of bird, for this time it grows up to one meter height and branches a little, and its leaves in the bottom part of stalk gradually fall down. But at care on the part of gardener bowerbird the shape of plant is completely other: bird pinches out by beak top of plant, and it starts to branch plentifully, turning to spherical bush about 40 – 50 cm high. Due to branching it has plenty of points of growth, and bright red color of young leaves it well visible on the background of environmental green.
But symbiosis with the bowerbird has the return side: balsams belong to number of insect-pollinating plants and presence of symbiote bird frightens off pollinator insects, or bird simply catches and eats them. Therefore flowering of crimson-leaved balsam proceeds exclusively at night. In axils of top leaves flower buds are forming. They develop for a long time before will reveal only for one night. Their pedicle is turned to spiral, having wrapped up a bud by itself. At night the pedicle quickly starts to untwist, and in one hour is straightened completely, taking out a flower bud above leaves. The flower with long spur and dazzling-white petals is opened, exhaling strong sweet aroma with light putrefactive shade, involving moths. The plant secrets a plenty of liquid nectar, and moths willingly visit its flowers. If the flower is not pollinated, within day it literally turns to slime and the pedicle falls off. Frequently the bird, cleaning dust, pulls and throws out such pedicles. If pollination has taken place, the pedicle turns to spiral again, and under covering of leaves a fruit starts to grow ripe – dehiscent pod. To the moment of seeds ripening the pedicle is straightened and extended horizontally. At casual touch of bird it bursts with crashing sound and scatters seeds to the distance of several meters.
Leafless pounchstem (Gastrocaudex aphyllus)
Order: Apiales (Apiales)
Family: Carrots (Apiaceae)
Habitat: South-Eastern Europe, Balkan.
In Neocene Africa had closely come nearer to Europe. It had caused a lot of changes in nature of Mediterranean. First of all, the result of this slow, but steady movement was disappearance of Mediterranean Sea – strait of Gibraltar was closed for ever, and till some thousand years the sea had completely dried up. On the western part of saline lowland, once being a bottom of Mediterranean Sea, severe deserts are stretched. East part of Mediterranean is the world of saline swamps, where only creatures steady against salt can live. These swamps are fed by streams flowing down in spring from the Alps. The second consequence of movement of Africa to the north is a volcanic activity in Southern Europe, and growth of Alps in height. They are still not as high, as Himalayas are, but the first step is already made, and during the following millions years Alps can become the highest mountains of the planet.
Narrow strip between southern slopes of Alps and Mediterranean swamps is the area of droughty plain. Salt of the receding sea has remained in swamps, and Alps block the way to damp northern winds. Water gets in these places in winter as fogs, in spring as thawed snow from mountain tops. At this time for some weeks the rich ephemeric vegetation, which spends the most part of year as seeds, tubers and bulbs, develops here. But some plants are not afraid of cold fogs and burning summer heat.
On clay ground the grotesque plant, partly similar to fossil plants of Paleozoic and early Mesozoic, grows. It is not going to hide from sun and differs in high specialization to extreme conditions of inhabiting. Thick branchless stalks of this plant stick up from the rhizome hidden under ground and reach the height of 3 – 4 m at thickness at the basis about 20 cm. Trunks are slightly bent and completely lack of foliage, and internodes are inflated. This plant is named leafless pounchstem. The plant is similar to Ottoa oenanthoides, the plant dwelt in Andes (Venezuela) at height more of 4 kilometers above sea level, and belongs to family common with it. Conditions of inhabiting of both species are similar in one feature – they differ in dryness. In mountains dryness is physiological – because of cold plants soak up water worse. And in desert it is hot, and actual shortage of water is felt.
To save the precious moisture, leaves of pounchstem are reduced. They are present by wide petioles without leaf plate, with advanced stipules, and exist rather short time. Petioles and stipules are thin, turned to the kind of cap. They serve for protection of apex, covering it from scorching beams of sun. In process of stalk growth these caps quickly die off, but under them new ones are constantly formed. Trunks of pounchstem have strong bark and are filled with friable water-bearing tissue. In desert there are some species of herbivores, for example, whistlehorns. But the plant is reliably protected from them by the weapon popular among Apiaceae family – liquid accumulated in its stalk is poisonous and very bitter. Pounchstem has not armed with spikes as cactuses or devil’s-milk plants (Euphorbia), but chemical protection provides its survival.
Trunks of this plant grow from short turnip-like rhizome. As a signal for growth ground humidifying serves. In spring from Alps streams flow down, and in desert small temporary reservoirs are formed. The plant as if shakes from itself winter catalepsy, and begins rough growth. Each stalk grows till some years, gradually thickening. In nods stalk does not grow thick, therefore its trunks seem drawn across. The young stalk has thin bark and friable tussue inside. Concentration of poisonous substances in it is especially great: from bark of young stalk the bitterish smell, warning herbivores that the plant is protected by poison, is emitted. Active growth proceeds during three – four years of life of stalk. When it grows ripe, bark hardens and turns drier, but cells of core are poured by water and in them poisonous substances accumulate. Till first years of life each stalk accumulates nutrients, and at the 6 – 8-th year of existence begins to blossom.
The inflorescence of pounchstem is typically for its family – it is large (about 80 cm in diameter) umbel consisting of set of tiny white floscules. It rises above stalks on low thick peduncle. Floscules are pollinated by insects. They are not poisonous, and from them pleasant aroma is emitted. Seeds of pounchstem are prickly; their environment is covered with numerous hook-like bristles. They are carried by birds, clinging to their feathering. After ripening of seeds trunk dries up and breaks off at the basis.
Leafless pounchstem lives up to 30 – 40 years, and starts to blossom at the tenth year of life and blossoms annually up to the death.
Despite of poison, this plant gives food and home to some species of desert insects. On young trunks of pounchstem water-bearing plant louse parasitizes. It is not afraid of poisons containing in plant, and can neutralize them. This insect accumulates poison in body and plentifully secrets almost clean water. This insect serves as though as natural “filter” of poison and the source of water for some insects. Populations of this plant louse are “pasturing” by shepherd beetle. It licks off water secreted by plant lice, and survives in desert due to this. This beetle preserves plant lice against other insects, feeds on inflorescences of pounchstem and pollinates its flowers.
Mediterranean ant root (Myrmiradix mediterraneus)
Order: Apiales (Apiales)
Family: Carrots (Apiaceae)
Habitat: deserts of Mediterranean lowland, maquis of Southern and Western Europe.
In due course of evolution plants very frequently entered the union with insects. The most widespread form of relations between plants and insects is the adaptation of certain species of plants exclusively to one species of pollinator insects. Phenomenon of myrmecophilia, the formation of symbiosis with ants, is less widespread. In exchange for shelter and food, given to its six-legged lodgers, plants receive reliable protection.
Frequently symbiosis of plants and ants arises in tropical forests where the competition and danger on the part of herbivores are especially great. But occasionally such unity arises in less favorable conditions. One case of such symbiosis had arisen in arid areas of Mediterranean lowlands where herbivores are rare, but damage of shoots in very adverse conditions of habitat can weaken the plant considerably. This plant is Mediterranean ant root, the representative of umbellifers.
Appearance of this species of plants differs from typical shape of its relatives – high piping stalks, alternate wide leaves and very characteristic inflorescences – umbel of tiny modest flowers. Leaves of Mediterranean ant root have thick midrib and leaf plate dissected into three rounded lobes with dulled tips. The upper surface of this leaf is covered with thin layer of wax reflecting a part of ultra-violet rays. The bottom side of leaf is richly covered with tiny white hairs that create a favorable microclimate in thin layer of air adjoining the surface of leaf. Stalks of this plant reach one meter height at thickness of about 5 – 6 cm at the basis. At dying off of stalks their tissues quickly dry up and are kept in vertical position almost all next year. For one year this plant is capable to form about three fully developed blossoming stalks. The inflorescence up to 20 cm in diameter is composed of 150 – 200 tiny flowers. Flowering begins in early spring and proceeds during about one month. When seeds ripen, pedicels of not pollinated flowers straighten and twist as prickles, protecting seeds from an eating by birds. Seeds of Mediterranean ant root are distributed by wind. For this purpose each seed has wide leathery sail surrounding it along the edge.
The main feature of this plant is its thick underground rhizome. It reaches length over 1 meter at diameter up to 7 – 9 cm, branches to some shoots and lays in ground at the depth of up to half meter. It is hollow and separated to chambers by internal cross partitions. The plant in itself is not poisonous, but it has other protection against herbivorous mammals and insects: ants. Mediterranean ant root gives a place for life to several species of ants – it is inexpedient to become too strictly specialized in conditions where this plant lives. Actually, its root and last year’s stalks represent a ready dwelling for ants. They only bore entrances in partitions and surround a rhizome of this plant with tunnels, improving air circulation. The fact that Mediterranean ant root is true myrmecophilous plant, is proved to be true by one more feature – this plant constantly supplies ants with some food. On internal walls of rhizome drops of liquid are secreted from time to time, and ants drink it, and on edges of leaves amylaceous secretions gathered by ants are forming. The plant grows successfully without ants, but in this case its leaves are strongly damaged by insects.
The young plant begins to blossom for the first time only at the fifth year of life. Life expectancy can reach 20 years and more.
“Toad tree” (Bufodendron toxicus)
Order: Apiales (Apiales)
Family: Ginsengs (Araliaceae)
Habitat: Southern Europe, coast of former Mediterranean Sea.
In Neocene Europe and North Africa make a whole landmass – till the Cenozoic Africa slowly drifted to the north, and had gradually joined Europe. Mediterranean Sea had dried up till the previous glacial epoch, and its hollow occupied by saline swamps, is gradually narrowed in Neocene. Millions years later it can disappear completely, having turned to highland, but in Neocene this district is rather extensive.
Above saline swamps the zone of dry stony semidesert with separate sites of saline lands is stretched. The desert differs in hot and dry climate, but plants had developed even such inhospitable district.
Here and there in dried up channels of streams flew down from Alps in spring, the unusual plant grows. This is thick tree similar to representatives of genus Adenium, lived in human epoch. The trunk of this plant is short – the plant does not exceed two meters in height. But it is thick and stumpy, reaching almost one meter thickness in the basis. In top part from trunk some the same thick branches curved upwards and in sides grow. Roots of this plant are also very thick, tuber-like inflated in basis. The bases of roots reaching about one meter width, surround tree trunk; therefore it seems, as if the tree has “thawn” from drying up heat on stony ground, as if any huge candle. This plant is named “toad tree”.
Relations of this species with plants of Holocene epoch are unusual: “toad tree” is the succulent descendant of typical European species – the ivy (Hedera helix). So sharp transition of one vital form to another was shown by representatives of genus Cissus of grape family. The majority of species of these plants is submitted by lianas, but Cissus macropus is strongly expressed succulent plant from South Africa with tuber-like stalk.
“Toad tree” accumulates a plenty of water in friable wood and the bases of roots. But the tree is not intended to share it with anybody at all: sap of “toad tree” is poisonous, and it protects this plant from an encroachment of herbivores. Bark of this plant is very friable and soft, light grey with dark knobs, outwardly resembling the toad skin. Such structure of bark is typical for a lot of plants living in similar places – the bark badly transfers heat and rescues the trunk from overheat, and also rescues the plant from rare light frosts in winter. The plant forms sprouts of two types: long-term skeletal branches and thin annual sprouts dying off and falling with approach of dry season. Skeletal branches accrue slowly – one meter high plant exceeds the age of 50 years, and two-meter giants have lived for one and a half centuries. This tree is very durable – its age may reach 400 years and more.
The relationship of “toad tree” with the ivy is more obviously shown by leaves and flowers. Leaves of this plant grow at the time of first spring rains and keep on plant till only about three months a year. There are two types of leaves of “toad tree”: they differ on peduncles and vegetative sprouts. On vegetative sprouts leaves are palmately parted with thin lobes. The shape of leaves is the parameter of development and state of health of plant. On healthy and strong plant leaves have five and even seven lobes. And young or very old plant usually forms three-lobed leaves.
At the age of about 20 years the plant begins to blossom the first time in life. “Toad tree” blossoms in winter, before developing of leaves. At this time from Alps cold air masses move, and in mornings on places of growth of this plant a rich fog is rising. The cold period stimulates development of flower buds, and fog serves as stimulus for flowering. The plant flowers and fructifies early, because to dry season its fruits must have time to ripen and sprouts could be developed enough go through a droughty season.
Bracteal leaves differ from usual ones: they are oval-shaped with dulled tip. They richly grow on short floriferous sprouts, forming the cover for inflorescence, similar to heads of asters. Mean-looking floscules with strong smell are gathered in dense cyme-like inflorescence. Their spicy smell involves small beetles keeping activity even in winter cool. At this time food sources are very rare, therefore insects for a long time keep on inflorescences of “toad tree” and spend night on them, having hided in depth of cluster. Fruits of this plant are the round grey berries covered with wax. They ripen in spring, to the moment of migration of birds from Africa. This plant is specialized to carrying of seeds by birds: wax reflects ultra-violet light, and ripe fruits are well appreciable for birds. Besides berries are poisonous for mammals occasionally coming to places of inhabiting of this plant. Birds willingly eat berries and carry seeds in vicinities. While in ground there is a lot of moisture, seeds sprout. The young plant forms the crown of peaked leaves and grows a long rod root. It grows in height very slowly: in first year the “toad tree” forms small turnip-like tuber and the crown of 4 – 5 leaves. At the fifth year of life growth of stalk in height begins.
Palmated aepyhedera (“over-ivy”) (Aepyhedera dissecta)
Order: Apiales (Apiales)
Family: Ginsengs (Araliaceae)
Habitat: Southeast Europe, Balkan.
Warm subtropical forests are obliged by their occurrence to influence of Fourseas. Rains from this reservoir give enough moisture for growth of forests, and Fourseas softens climate. Forests at the coast of this reservoir have some features of humid tropical forest. They are made of deciduous flora, and in such forests the abundance of lianas and epiphytes is observed. At the same time, these forests are adapted to survival in conditions of expressed seasonal climate.
The huge mountain circuit complicates communication of subtropical forests with tropical forests of Asia and Africa. Therefore in subtropics of Fourseas at local plants features, characteristic for true subtropical plants of a southern origin had evolved – large size, wide or dissected leaves, long leaf tips – dripping tips, the adaptation for removal of surplus of water.
Among lianas of European forests descendants of an ivy of several species dominate. Some of them had remained hardy, as their ancestor, evergreen lianas with rigid leathery leaves. They had settled far to the north and twine round tree trunks practically in whole Europe, except for Scandinavia and northeast. Northern species are perennial small-leaved lianas with thin lignificated stalk.
The huge descendant of an ivy (Hedera helix), small liana of historical time, is one of dominant lianas in southern subtropical forests of Europe. The southern ivy descendant, palmated aepyhedera, differs from small northerners – it is a magnificent evergreen ligneous liana with thick trunk, rough bark and holdfast roots growing at all extent of trunk. With their help thick stalk of this plant (“Aepyhedera” means literally “over-ivy”) strongly keeps on tree trunks. It is a perennial plant reaching the age of 200 years and more. The age of separate rods of this species can be only a little less, than the age of environmental trees. Aepyhedera is the giant among lianas: at adult plant up to ten stalks more than 70 meters long can develop, entangling some near trees. The bases of trunks lay on the ground, being bound with roots of trees and making almost impassable sites of forest where they grow. They are covered with thick bark, which slivers as separate plates. On trunk not only short holdfast roots, but also long crampons develop; these ones freely hang down and reach the great length. Reaching the ground, they grow thick, lignificate, and also deliver an additional nutrients to the plant.
Leaves of aepyhedera are digitate and have rounded shape. As the plant develops, leaf shape changes. At young plant leaves are small and oval. Then they become pentagonal, resembling leaves of ivy. As the plant grows, leaves gradually become lobed, and spaces between leaf lobes increase. The size of leaf is increased further, and additional lobes develop. At completely developed plant the leaf reaches diameter of 70 cm and has 7 – 9 lobes. The tip of each lobe is extended to dripping tip, helping to excrete the surplus of water.
Having reached the stage of full physiological maturity, aepyhedera begins to blossom. Before flowering it changes the appearance of leaves again. On trunk the flower-bearing shoots covered with integral leaves, having the lengthened shape and dripping tip start to develop. Flowers of aepyhedera are small, white with yellowish shade, composed to wide cyme-like inflorescences. Their smell is rich and heavy; it can cause a headache. Because of this feature climbing and flying mammals do not come nearer to flowers of this plant during its flowering. But aroma of aepyhedera flowers is very attractive to large beetles and solitary bees which pollinate this plant. From the end of summer aepyhedera fructifies. Its fruits are bluish-violet berries up to 5 cm in size covered with thin layer of wax. They are poisonous for mammals, but birds eat them without any harm and carry seeds. One of basic seed-carriers of aepyhedera is cavedove (Cavernicolumba strigops) nesting in Balkan caves.
Ginseng tree (Megalopanax flabelliphyllum)
Order: Apiales (Apiales)
Family: Ginsengs (Araliaceae)
Habitat: South-East Asia, Jakarta Coast; rainforests.
In human epoch South-East Asia was one center of variety of ginseng family plants. These plants form various life forms – lianas, perennial grasses, and also small trees. When the area of tropical forests had extended, some representatives of ginseng family appeared in conditions of strict competition to plants of other groups. Among ginseng plants of Neocene epoch large species of trees reaching the age of several hundreds of years had not evolved. But they had rather succeeded as pioneer vegetation in the damaged areas of forest.
In places, where the wood patriarch undermined by time has fallen, or where the river cuts forest, in forest canopy extensive “window” is formed and the sunlight reaches the ground surface. Growth of large forest grasses and also seedlings of trees of various species here begins; they compete to each other for the right to develop and to occupy this site of forest. Among these species prospering within few years, there is one representative of treelike ginsengs – the ginseng tree.
This species of plants has rather characteristic appearance. Ginseng tree is fast-growing tree about 15 meters high, having long prickles on trunk. The tree reaches such height within approximately six years. The trunk of this plant usually does not branch; only at damage of top 2 – 3 lateral branches start to develop. More often one strongest branch continues to grow, and the others dry up and break off. But in the basis of trunk there is a plenty of buds, from which shoots develop. Bark of this plant is lacquered brown and shining; on young sprouts it has reddish shade. In the bottom part of trunk the old bark exfoliates and shells by long strips between thorns. Thorns, serving for protection against herbivores, are black with white tips. On the bottom part of trunk a plenty of thick additional roots, serving for support, develops.
Leaves of ginseng tree also have very characteristic outlines. They are alternate, digitate, deeply dissected to 15 – 19 long lobes with rounded tips sharply passing to thin “dropper”. Leaves are huge: they reach two meters in diameter. Leaf has long elastic leafstalk (up to 5 meters long); foliage forms umbellate crone characteristic for treelike ginsengs. The leaf surface is durable and leathery; therefore dying off leaf keeps the shape for a long time and is decomposed rather slowly. Completely advanced leaf has dark green color with white nerves; young leaf is reddish: it is the anthocyan colouring protecting from surplus of sunlight.
Ginseng tree belongs to the number of moistureloving plants. It grows on riverbanks, where the forest canopy is broken by natural way. This species especially frequently grows on river shallows and sandy spits. This species belongs to pioneer vegetation: it is photophilous and has low competitive ability. Till the process of settlement of other species of plants ginseng tree degrades and is quickly superseded by other trees. The main advantage of this species in struggle for existence is its indiscriminateness to nutrients. In fact, seeds of ginseng tree sprout and further the plant normally develops on sand, being content with minimum quantity of organic substances.
In tissues of ginseng tree a plenty of biologically active substances is synthesized. They have tonic influence and raise sexual activity at males of many species of mammals. Therefore thickets of ginseng tree constantly suffer damage from various animals, and even strong thorns on tree trunk do not stop them. Climbing animals eat foliage of tree, and massive ground animals gnaw bark or feel young trees in order to eat foliage. Even predators in courtship season do not pass this species of trees by.
Ginseng tree blossoms annually since the third year of life. In leaf axils hanging umbellate inflorescences consisting of ordinary-looking pale flowers, pollinated by flies and beetles, develop. Fruits of this plant are small, but numerous berries of dark blue color with grey wax bloom. Birds (especially pigeons and parrots) eat them willingly, and mammals find the fallen berries. Berries also have tonic action. Seeds of this plant are carried by animals.
tree” (Necrodendron omnimortalis)
Order: Rutales (Rutales)
Family: Anacardiaceae (Anacardiaceae)
Habitat: Japan Islands, humid forests at eastern slopes of islands.
Picture by fanboyphilosopher
In human epoch Japan Islands represented one of places where
animals and plants of tropical origin penetrate to the north, using the influence
of warm sea currents softened climate of this place. The glacial epoch marked
change of Holocene by Neocene had damaged flora and fauna of islands, having
thrown heat-loving species away to the south, and having exterminated ones could
not make it. In Neocene the new wave of expansion of southern species to the
north began. However, some relicts of Holocene managed to survive in glacial
epoch, and in Neocene they had reached prosperity in ecosystems formed anew.
Among such species there was a descendant of one Far Eastern plant – poison sumach, or poison dogwood (Toxicodendron verniciflua). In warm and humid climate of Neocene when literally each blade of grass has chance to turn a tree, this plant completely realized its opportunities having turned to large tree. It has kept and increased greatly poisonous properties of the ancestor, and deservedly has frightening name “death tree”. If it should grew in human epoch, it would cause set of legends, inspiring mystical horror by deadly properties. But it grows in epoch when the Earth is humanless.
The height of “death tree” reaches 25 meters: it is rather high tree of Japan woods. In its appearance there is a set of features of former being a bush of its ancestor. Trunk of “death tree” is strongly waved and rough; this tree often grows as two trunks and more which fantastically bound by branches and grow together. Branches of this tree grow bending upwards, thus they often overwound and weave. In common they form high egg-shaped crone, and the top of tree looks pointed. On contrary to the name, “death tree” differs in unique vitality: fallen on the ground, but not dead, trunk and branches easily take roots, and the plant continues growth. Bark of “death tree” is dense and grey with darker spots, in the basement of trunk it is dot with deep cracks.
“Death tree” grows in places where the ground layer may be rather thin. Therefore in the basement of trunk this tree huge plank-buttress roots develop giving to the plant additional support. On these roots dormant buds develop often, and from them new trunks sprout at damage of root.
Leaves of “death tree” are compound and odd-pinnate, about one meter long. Each leavf consist from 7 – 11 pairs of small peaked leaflets. Leaves are light green with skinny shining top side and soft wrong side covered with thin hair. “Death tree” belongs to number of plants able to move by leaves: for night its leaves hang. They also behave the same way before the rain.
This plant has kept poisonous properties of its ancestor, and due to them is reliably protected from herbivores at any stage of development. Transparent viscous sap of tree is extremely poisonous: it is an adaptation against the wood-boring vermins. On this plant only some species of herbivorous insects live, and it is reliably protected against the majority of species of insects damaging surrounding trees. Due to alcaloids the plant has ability to suppress fungi growth, therefore on its trunk sponks do not settle. Wood of “death tree” as if emphasizes the impression from plant as a whole: it is colored meat red. Wood is so rich in alcaloids that even the dead tree is decomposed for very long time – about three years pass before on its trunk first wood-decomposing fungi settle.
The touch to young sprouts of “death tree” may cause a chemical sting: in young bark of this plant urushiol alcaloid accumulates, causing skin inflammation. Therefore herbivorous mammals avoid eating young growth of this plant. Also for young shoots and sprouts of “death tree” have a bitterish smell is characteristic, warning of inedibility.
“Death tree” blossoms till almost all year having a break in winter months. Flowers of this tree are ordinary-looking and tiny, have five white petals. They are gathered to cluster inflorescences hanging down from leaf axils down on long pedicels. They are pollinated by small moths involved with aroma amplifying at night. Fruits of this plant are small dry drupes surrounded by strongly grown juicy cup-shaped pedicels of red - orange color. They are eaten by unique species of birds – the sumach finch. In stomach of this bird under the action of gastric juice the environment of seeds becomes thinner and permeable. Germinating ability of seeds passed through intestines of bird increases. But finches in every case exterminate a part of seeds: when pedicels dry up, birds begin simply peck seeds out from them and crush by beak. However at high competitiveness of “death tree” the damage caused by finches is much less than benefit brought by them to tree in seeds carrying.
In winter “death tree” falls into condition of relative rest: the plant stops growth and casts a part of foliage. Also at it separate small branches thickened the crone fall down. It brings to the plant considerable benefit – secretions of decomposed foliage sterilize soil and kill sprouts of other plants.
“Death tree” is very moistureloving plant; in dry years its growth turns slow, and the tree casts part of leaves. Till the long drought tree grown tens years may even perish. In some degree it restrains the expansion of “death tree” in woods of islands. At the same time this plant is sensitive to soil inundating and perishes during strong floods from roots inundating. Therefore “death tree” grows only in places where soil is well drained and simultaneously is constantly damp – more often on hillsides turned to ocean. In these places “death tree” forms the continuous thickets lasting to hundreds meters.
In continuous thickets of “death tree” only few animals live – birds avoid this plant, and only sumach finches feel like at home among branches of this plant. They can eat seeds and young sprouts of this tree without harm for themselves.
sandal tree (Odoroxylon scandens)
Habitat: tropical woods of Southern Asia.
The sandal trees family is most richly submitted in tropical woods. Plants leading partly or completely parasitic way of life belong to it. Some species of these plants have suffered from cutting down by people (at least one species was completely destroyed) because of valuable aromatic wood. After human disappearance on Earth and global warming, when the area of tropical woods has increased, plants of this family have returned lost positions, having formed new original species.
Strangler sandal tree is very original semi-parasitic liana. This plant reaches very impressive size: length of its horizontally growing trunk may reach up to 90 - 100 meters. The plant gives set of lateral branches and expands in width to tens meters, adhering to the majority of trees suitable to growth in vicinities.
The plant begins life as an epiphyte: birds or insects wear out its seeds in crown of any large tree. During the first some days sprout develops due to spare nutrients received from parent plant. But its roots gradually start to bore bark of tree, on which the plant has lodged. If the tree appears not suitable for being of the host plant, the strangler sandal tree can develop long time as an epiphytic liana. It forms sprouts reaching for nearest trees. Having reached the next tree, sprout forms some additional roots penetrating through bark of the tree.
If the young plant was lucky, or if sprout has to found a tree satisfying needs of strangler sandal tree, in places of contact to bark of tree sucking additional roots boring bark of tree and taking root in its wood are formed. Due to emitting phytogormones the place of accretion forms original “unit” in which wood of the host tree and this liana are “bound”. On cuts of such “units” interesting pattern is formed; it is especially effectively looking, when wood of parasite and host plant differs by color. At the strangler sandal tree wood has very dark, almost beet-red colouring. It is rich in essential oils and smells pleasantly. Oils protect plant from wood-boring insects. The trunk of the strangler sandal tree, which has received generous inflow of additional feeding, starts to grow in length and thicken strongly. Lateral branches reach to new trees, and soon the big area of forest appears braided by one large plant. It is easy for noticing among branches: bark of the strangler sandal tree is very light, almost white.
As against to some relatives, completely passed to parasitic existence, the strangler sandal tree depends on host tree only partly. From host tree it receives only water and mineral salts which usually does not suffice to epiphytic plants. At this species leaves are not lost; the plant is able to independent photosynthesis. From horizontal trunks the strangler sandal tree gives numerous vertical photosynthesizing sprouts with characteristic oval leaves. In three - five years' age the strangler sandal tree begins blossoming. At the tips of photosynthesizing sprouts vertical inflorescences develop – truss of set of small pinkish flowers with strong pleasant smell. They are pollinated by insects – basically by beetles and flies though sometimes they are visited by wasps and single bees. This plant is monecious, but staminate flowers blossom only after decaying of pistillate ones. Fruits are white sweetish berries with thin skin and one large seed inside. They are carrying by birds, sometimes fallen berries are eaten by rodents.
Flaming poisonous tree (Poinsettia arborea)
Order: Spurges (Euphorbiales)
Family: Spurges (Euphorbiaceae)
Habitat: mountain forests of Hawaii.
In human epoch the flora of Hawaiian islands had suffered great damage. A number of species of plants had died out because of extinction of pollinator animals connected to them. Some species of trees had become extinct because of cutting down, and others had suffered because of introduced herbivorous mammals. Not the smaller damage to endemic flora was put with introduction to the islands of exotic plants from various continents. “Tempered” in more inclement conditions of life at the continent, they had quickly superseded a significant amount of species of native flora. In Neocene flora of Hawaii descendants of species of plants introduced by people take a significant place.
Slopes of the volcanos forming Hawaii are covered with magnificent vegetation. The monotony of green color of foliage is broken by bright colors of blossoming plants. Among them crones of one species of Neocene Hawaiian flora are especially brightly allocated – they are red with yellow, as if covered with fire. This plant bringing bright colors in palette of tropical forest, is the descendant of poinsettia, or “Christmas star” (Euphorbia (Poinsettia) pulcherrima), introduced by people. This species is named flaming poisonous tree, and its features justify this name.
Flaming poisonous tree is a moistureloving plant which very well feels like in damp air of gorges of the Hawaiian mountains. It is especially plentiful in humid forests of eastern slopes of mountains. Usually it is suffrutex or low tree growing by some trunks. The height of this plant reaches 6 – 8 meters.
Bark of flaming poisonous tree is greyish-brown, thick and friable. In the bottom part of trunk it exfoliates as long strips. Leaves of this plant are simple, up to 20 cm long, wide, with large angular lateral lobes. The tip of leaf extends as a characteristic “dropper” which helps to remove surplus of water from tissue. Sap of this tree is white, as at the majority of representatives of spurges family. It contains a plenty of rubber which at drying up forms drips and stops up the wounded places on trunk and branches. Sap is not as poisonous, as at some continental species of spurges, but has very burning taste and strong irritating action. This tree is protected from wood-boring insects, filling with plentiful lacteal sap apertures, which they drill in trunk. The foliage of this tree is also inedible, but some animals of Hawaii specially eat it in small amounts in order to remove internal parasites.
This species of trees belongs to the pioneer vegetation of the archipelago inhabiting fields of stiffened volcanic lava after eruption. When volcanic lava hardens and among it grassy plants expand, flaming poisonous tree appears one of the first settlers among wood plants. It grows very intensively – young plant within one year forms three-meter trunk and starts to form a crone. The trunk of this tree in youth is four-costal, but later friable core is destructing and in trunk apertures appear, frequently through ones. Thus secondary growth proceeds, edges of cracks become covered by bark and the trunk of elder specimens resembles some trunks growing in parallel and partly accreting with each other. At old trees trunk can break on some parts in case of hurricanes or simply under weight of wet foliage after rain. However thus tree stays alive and the parts of trunk, which has kept connection with roots, continue their growth – branches bend upwards and form additional roots. Frequently trunk lays on mountain slope, and tree continues to live, giving new vertical shoots. Life expectancy of this species does not exceed 100 years.
Inflorescences of flaming poisonous tree are very small, as at all typical representatives of family. An inflorescence represents cyathium typical for spurges: the pistillate flower with reduced perianth is surrounded with several small staminate flowers. But flowering of this tree will not pass imperceptibly for pollinators: inflorescences are surrounded with bright bracts. This plant is pollinated by various birds which are descendants of species introduced to Hawaii by people, as well as ancestors of this species of plants. Bracts of flaming poisonous tree have defined the name of species: they involve birds with contrast colouring, crimson-pink with yellow border. When the wind blows, bracts wave, making an impression of fire. When the plant sheds its blossom, its bracts lose brightness – they turn brown and gradually get usual green colouring. Flaming poisonous tree blossoms in several “waves”, simultaneously developing a plenty of inflorescences on tops of young shoots.
Small seeds of this plant are supplied with cop of white hairs. They are easily carried by wind, and get in cracks of stiffened lava at lava fields of islands among the first. This tree quickly develops, requiring a minimum quantity of humus, and its roots deeply penetrate in lava along cracks. But in adult condition it is very photophilous, and in due course of overgrowing of lava fields this species is gradually superseded by other plants. Also flaming poisonous tree frequently settles on slopes of mountains where the competition to other plants is less, rather than in valleys.
tree (Menthoxylon leucophyllum)
Habitat: southern slopes of Himalayas, the north of Hindustan, tropical forests.
Plants develop the most various ways for protection against insects: some of them form a plenty of fibres, others are protected with the help of poisons, and third ones enter the favorable unions with enemies of their enemies. One of representatives of Neocene flora, the mint tree, had chosen way of perfection of chemical protection. This plant accumulates a lot of menthol and various alkaloids in leaves, reliably having protected itself from many pest insects. Certainly, there are some species of beetles, adapted to eat leaves of this species, and even using substances received from tree for protection against their own enemies, but nevertheless their number is much less, than could be, if the mint tree should not have means of chemical protection.
Mint tree grows on mountain slopes, opened to wind and sun. During evolution it has adapted to life on well lighted places, forming at times continuous thickets in favorable conditions. From height of bird's flight thickets of mint tree are well appreciable on the background of environmental wood: at this tree the foliage has silvery shade. For protection against the sunlight leaves and young sprouts of plant have rich silvery downiness, reflecting surplus of sunlight. Leaves of mint tree are rather large (their length is about 30 cm), oval-shaped with denticulate edges.
Mint tree is one of trees of the first size in Asian woods. Its height is up to 50 meters. This tree grows very long time: duration of its life can reach 300 years and more. Wood of mint tree is very firm, pleasantly smelling on break: it is literally impregnated with menthol for protection against wood-boring insects.
But the mint tree has concluded the favorable union with pollinating insects: its flowers are simply irresistible for every possible butterflies and bees. Tubular flowers of this tree are gathered to long inflorescences rising vertically on tips of branches. Each inflorescence numbers up to fifty such flowers. Colouring of them is rather ordinary-looking: perianth is pale lilac. The fauces of flower is opened, and the lower lip represents fine “airfield” for insects. All secret of appeal of flower is inaccessible to sight of vertebrates, but involves insects from apart: internal parts of flower reflect ultra-violet light, and on lip in ultra-violet light the strip is appreciable, indicating to insect a way to nectar.
Except for ultra-violet pattern, flowers involve insects with strong pleasant smell with a shade of mint. Fruits of mint tree are dry pods with firm seeds. On tips of seeds hooks, assisting them to cling to wool of animals, wandering under tree, grow.
Except for seeds, the mint tree can breed by root offsprings: on the surface of thin lateral roots there are buds sprouting at damage of root. So at some distance from adult tree young trees of the same species appear. When the parental plant falls because of old age or hurricane, young growth grow competing in speed, and soon in a wood the whole group of high trees with silvery foliage is formed.
Alien rootflower (Rhizoflosculus xenos)
Order: Scrophulariales (Scrophulariales)
Family: Figworts (Scrophulariaceae)
Habitat: forests of South-Eastern Europe (southern and western coast of Fourseas)
In Holocene among representatives of figworts family it was a plenty of species which leaded semi-parasitic habit of life – they were attached by underdeveloped roots to root system of other plants and received through them mineral substances from ground. But they kept green leaves, and looked externally like other most usual grassy plants. Also in family true parasitic species were represented in small amount.
In Neocene the tendency of passing to parasitic habit of life had amplified at them. It was favoured with changes of climate resulted in formation of new productive ecosystems. Humid subtropical woods at the coast of Fourseas became a habitat of new species of parasitic plants.
On roots of high trees of European subtropical woods it is possible to see flowers of this plant, hence it has received the name rootflower. This parasitic plant has no own green leaves and lives practically completely due to the host tree. Its relations with host tree develop originally: it is parasitism inclined to symbiosis. The rootflower exists the most part of year as tissue bundles under bark and in thickness of wood of host tree. Its presence causes fantastical knotty inflows on roots and bottom part of trunk (not higher than at one meter above the ground). But the most interesting fact is that at rootflower its own root system is very well advanced. Evolution had made an original step back: first the plant had “attached” to host tree and became dependent on it, and then relations of parasite and host began to develop to absolutely another direction. Under the ground rootflower develops rich circuit of roots connected to mycelium of various species of local fungi. It brings huge benefit both to parasite, and its host: the host tree receives from rootflower mineral substances from ground, but in exchange the parasitic plant takes a part of organic substance synthesized by the host. Vascular system of host and parasite plants interlace inside knot-like inflows on trunk which in due course strongly expand. The rootflower can parasitize at the plenty of species of deciduous trees of European woods. It avoids only plants on which lianas of family Araliaceae, descendants of ivy, grow. Obviously, the substances emitting by these plants oppress sprouts of rootflower at early stages of development.
In summer on inflows formed of tissues of parasite and also on roots of the host tree flowers of this plant form. Two strong gristle-like bracts punch bark of the host plant and open, letting outside a single flower. Flowers of this parasitic plant are large – the diameter of flower reaches 4 – 5 cm; they also are numerous – at one square meter up to several tens flowers blossom. Flower of rootflower is bilabiate with perianth extended to tube, bright yellow with lilac “ocula” in the middle. The top petal is covered with silvery hair reflecting ultra-violet light, which develop in longitudinal strips converging in fauces of the flower. It is the original “sign” for pollinating insects. They are involved also with strong aroma with slight putrefactive shade. Flowers of this plant are pollinated mainly by single hymenopters though occasionally they are visited by butterflies. Petals of rootflower are densely closed and only the strong insect can move them apart, therefore small casual pollinators like flies can not reach nectar. Butterflies with long proboscis, large species of diurnal hawkmoths, may simply penetrate thin proboscis between densely closed petals and drink nectar not making pollination.
The fruit of rootflower is very original – in it the “constructive decision” of plants of Cucurbitaceae family known as squirting cucumber (Ecballium elaterium) was independently developed and repeated. Ripen fruit of rootflower is rounded pod about 3 cm long, filled with liquid in which ripen seeds float. The liquid is under high pressure. The fruit is opened with the help of small cover at the tip. When large animal casually touches fruit, it “blows up” and throws to the animal sticky liquid with seeds. Seeds of rootflower are tiny; they easily stick to wool and are carrying by animal to other places. When animal rubs against trees, seeds remain on bark and sprout. Sprout of rootflower is very delicate and sensitive: phytoncides emitted by other plants easily suppress it. Therefore rootflower meets in woods of Europe rather seldom. If the species of host tree is suitable for rootflower and nothing interferes with development of parasite, the sprout takes root under bark of tree and expands. Till first years of life it develops in ground thin roots, searching for mycelium and forming mycorhiza. In this time at the bark of host tree characteristic outgrowths start to form. Having reached about ten years' age, rootflower begins to blossom.
Veey's root (Sublathraea wiyii)
Order: Scrophulariales (Scrophulariales)
Family: Figworts (Scrophulariaceae)
Habitat: forests of South-Eastern Europe (southern and western coast of Fourseas)
In Holocene at the territory of Australia people had discovered two species of orchids distinguished by original way of flowering – cryptanthemys (Cryptanthemys slateri) and rhizantella (Rhizanthella gardneri). These both plants were lack of chlorophyll. They grew and blossomed under the ground. Even at the moment of discovery these both plants were extremely rare. The Cryptanthemys orchid had become extinct in historical epoch, and Rhizanthella had vanished after it at the epoch of anthropogenous pressure despite of protection efforts.
In Neocene epoch at Earth one more plant leading underground life and even blossoming under the ground had appeared. It is the descendant of toothwort (Lathraea squamaria), the parasitic plant of figworts family. In Holocene epoch this plant had lost chlorophyll, and in Neocene specialization of its descendant had reached the top. The descendant of toothwort is completely underground flowering plant, Veey's root.
Veey is the underground monster at Slavic myths, which appears on the ground only once in four years, February, 29, and was able to kill by sight*. According tales Veey spent all rest time under ground. The Neocenic plant growing in forests at coast of Fourseas leads equally secretive underground habit of life.
The Veey's root is a parasitic plant which grows under the ground the most part of year. This species parasitizes at bush plants of birches family (Betulaceae) living in underbrush. Veey's root prefers mellow soft ground, and grows near riverbanks or in valleys, where the ground is mellow and humid enough. Obviously it is connected to optimum conditions of growth of its hosts.
At Veey’s root there is lack of chlorophyll, and its leaves had turned to thick scales. The body of plant is creeping rhizome about one meter long, growing at the depth of 20 – 30 cm. The root system of plant is reduced up to several sucker roots, with which help the Veey's root attaches to roots of host plants. This parasitic plant completely depends on the host.
In summer when ground is warm and damp, and the host plant vegetates actively, Veey's root begins to blossom. This event cannot be seen without any special efforts, because Veey's root even blossoms under ground. But inflorescences of this plant may be found out guiding at the characteristic smell involving pollinators.
Veey's root forms inflorescences in axils of scale-like leaves densely covering the rhizome. The inflorescence develops in wrapper of several strong juicy opposite leaves. They protect flowers against damages. The wrapper “bores” the ground thickness and slightly opens at the tip, having reached the ground level. At ripening flowers the wrapper of inflorescence expands in width, forming the chamber in which plant pollinators get.
Flowers of Veey’s root do not differ in refined form - they involve pollinators not with appearance, but with smell. At them there are reduced petals and pale grey colouring with pinkish shade. Each flower is surrounded with two big bracts. Flowers densely sit in longitudinal lines on thick rachis of inflorescence. Aroma of flowers of this species is strong and sweet with putrefactive nuance. Veey's root is pollinated by ground beetles involving very much with such smell. On inflorescences of Veey’s root it is possible to see often small ground snails and slugs also involved with smell of blossoming plant. They do not play an essential role in pollination, but can eat a significant part of ovaries. The plant is escaped from damages by its basic pollinators – beetles: many beetles feeding on inflorescences of Veey’s root are carnivorous and hunt molluscs.
After pollination, shortly before seed ripening, the plant of Veey's root is shown at the ground surface. The rachis of inflorescence is strongly extended and lifts ripening fruits to the height about one meter above the ground. Fruits of Veey’s root are dry pods opened by small operculums on tips. When the wind shakes the plant, through apertures tiny seeds carrying by wind run out. In one pod it may be some thousands of small seeds.
The seed of Veey’s root sprouts at once having got on the ground. The sprout searches for chemical substances – secretions of roots of the host plant, and grows directly to these roots. Usually significant part of sprouts perishes not having found suitable place for life. The Veey's root develops slowly: from germination of seed to the first flowering over 10 years may pass.
* Note for foreign readers about Veey: this monster is described like very stumpy-built human-like creature with long and heavy eyelids. It is not able to lift them, and demons do it using pitchforks. The glance of Veey is harmful and deadly for all live beings. Veey spends almost all life in caves or in other holes.
Uzambarian snowleaf (Niveophyllum usambaricus)
Order: Scrophulariales (Scrophulariales)
Family: Gesneriaceae (Gesneriaceae)
Habitat: Uzambara Mountains (Zinj Land).
Gesneriaceae is one of characteristic families of plants of tropical zone. In Holocene epoch it was presented by extremely grassy plants of different habitus - from tuberous perennial plants and evergreen epiphytes up to annuals and monocarpic grasses with unique leaf. In glacial epoch the specific variety of this family had considerably suffered because of reduction of the area of suitable for inhabiting places of tropical zone. But in Neocene when evergreen rainforests had widely distributed at Earth, these plants had received a new opportunity for evolution, and used it maximum full.
Neocenic Gesneriaceae had occupied even such habitats which were earlier inaccessible to them. One of such atypical representatives of family lives in mountains of Zinj Land. When the African continent had splitted along the line of Great Rift Walley, and its eastern part had broken away, the highest mountains of Africa had ceased to belong to the continent. Live creatures had stayed on Zinj Land, began to evolve irrespectively to continental species.
It is rather low plant – up to one meter height. Its vital form is uncharacteristic for family: at it there is thick lignificating trunk. At top of trunk the crown of wide leaves covered with white downiness is stretched. Young leaves are haired especially rich: it seems, that snow lies in the middle of plant. For this feature the plant has received the name “snowleaf”. However this species do not grow where the true snow falls: snowleaf has kept relative heat-loving characteristic for family. The ancestor of this plant is the species widely known in human epoch as “African violet” (Saintpaulia ionantha).
The shape of this plant is somewhat reminiscent some huge species of lobelias (Lobelia) dwelt in mountains of Africa in human epoch. The trunk of snowleaf is covered with leaves only in the top part where they form the wide crown. The basis of trunk is environmentproofed by friable spongy bark which softens difference between day time and night temperatures: at night in habitats of snowleaf it happens rather cool, and occasionally even there are light frosts. Therefore such protection is very useful for this plant. If light frosts are too delayed, old leaves die off, but do not fall off, and remain on trunk as additional thermal isolation. But some of young leaves most richly covered with silvery hairs, always survive, and the plant is quickly restored after colds.
If light frosts appeared too strong, the plant does not perish all the same: at the basis of trunk of snowleaf from dormant buds young crowns of leaves develop. In due course they expand, forming additional trunks, and form new crowns. So for some tens years the single plant can turn to thicket with several tens trunks.
Almost the year round snowleaf blossoms, making a break only in coldest time. Flowers of snowleaf are gathered in big inflorescence numbering up to 20 flowers. Flower is long, tubular, white with strong smell. In fauces of flower there is a pattern of small red spots merging in depth of flower to one spot. Flowers of snowleaf are opened constantly, but their specific spicy aroma is not almost felt in the afternoon, but amplifies by night. At this time tiny bats eating exclusively nectar of plants fly to the feeding. They should not fly far for the forage: they live under leaves of snowleaf where they have the convenient warm dwelling protected from wind. The same animals pollinate this plant. Peduncle is very strong, and bats licking nectar can simply jump from one plant to another.
Fruit of this plant is small dehiscent pod with very small seeds which are carried by wind. Sprouts of snowleaf are very weak and delicate, and the most part of them simply perishes among grass. But some sprouts succeed to survive and grow up. One more way of breeding of snowleaf is vegetative breeding with the help of leaves. Leaf of plant broken off by wind or animals can easily take roots in ground and give some young plants.
Right-sided asymmetrocalyx (Asymmetrocalyx dexter)
Order: Scrophulariales (Scrophulariales)
Family: Gesneriaceae (Gesneriaceae)
Habitat: humid tropical forests of Amazonia, forest canopy.
Tropical forests of Amazonia in congelation epoch had gone through an extreme degree of decline – their area at some stages of congelation broke up to a number of isolated islets where only small part of former variety of their inhabitants was kept. After deviation of glaciers, when the climate became warmer again, rainforests had formed a continuous cover in northern half of South America. A variety of rainforest inhabitants of Neocene has caused a competition, and strict specialization as its consequence. Flowering plants began to develop various ways of attraction of pollinators, leading up them up to various degrees of refinement. Some flowers are hospitably open to all pollinators, and others give nectar only to those ones, which are adapted to extract it. Representatives of Gesneriaceae family belong to the plants pollinated by birds and insects. Representatives of one genus of these plants evolved long time in common with the special genus of hummingbirds, and indestructible connection between bird and plant species became a result of this evolution.
Flowers of this species of Gesneriaceae have long tubular nimbus with bright limb, hiding nectar from strangers by simple way: it is bent sideways. For this feature plant has received name Asymmertocalyx (“an asymmetrical calyx of flower”). The bend can be both to the right, and to the left, and two species of this genus of plants realized both variants of a structure successfully. These species differ from each other in habitats, and their pollinators also do not meet in common with each other.
Both species of these plants are epiphytes living in forest canopy. In tropical forests of Amazonia right-sided asymmetrocalyx lives; it is the species, at which tubular nimbus bends to the right. The inflorescence at this plant is a long ear on strong vertical flower-bearing stem, and the axis of inflorescence is spirally twirled. Flowers grow in pairs on short stems in axils of wide rounded leaflets. In one node of flower-bearing stem, thus, four flowers grow. Flower-bearing stems of this species are covered with rich white hairs – it is the “family feature” of Gesneriaceae.
The length of flower tube is about 5 centimeters that approximately corresponds to the length of beak of the humming-bird pollinating this species. For attraction of the pollinator bird the limb of nimbus has bright red coloring with strips of silvery hairs stretching from edges to the pharynx of flower. Diameter of the flower of this species is about 2 centimeters. A fruit of asymmetrocalyx is rounded dry pod dehiscent in casual direction. Smallest seeds are supplied with cops need for flight.
Asymmetrocalyxes are perennial plants with strong creeping stalks. They attach to bark of host tree - by set of thin roots, and the beard of white roots gathering dew and rain water hangs down in air. Leaves of right-sided asymmetrocalyx are dark green, relief and impressed. They are not so large, leathery and having a small amount of hairs on top side. Leaves are gathered in dense crowns, and during the rain they direct rain water to roots.
This plant is pollinated by bacororo hummingbird, or left-sided crookbill hummingbird (Asymmetrochilus bakororo), which beak is adapted to extracting of nectar from such flowers. Fitness of asymmetrocalyx to pollination by hummingbird is not absolute – some large butterflies also can extract nectar of this plant, having turned sideways. And bees simply gnaw through tube flower, and also extract nectar, passing a bend of flower nimbus.
The related species – left-sided asymmetrocalyx (Asymmetrocalyx sinister) – lives in cool foggy forests on mountain slopes. This species has adapted to life in conditions of high humidity and cool climate. The whole plant is covered with intensive white downiness, which detains drops of dew, protecting leaves from rotting. Numerous short air roots gather moisture from the surface of plant. They develop even on flower-bearing stems, from the same node, as leaves. Flowers of this species are carmine-pink and larger, than at rainforest species – their diameter is up to 5 cm. Left-sided asymmetrocalyx is pollinated by itubory, right-sided crookbill hummingbird (Asymmetrochilus itubory). But also this plant can settle effectively with the help of vegetative breeding – on tips of its large leaves brooding buds with short leaves and hairs modified to hooks are forming. The brooding bud clings to plumage of birds and easily breaks off parental plant, and birds carry such buds in forest, leaving them in places which may be suitable for growth.
Chimaeric bladderwort (Utricularia amphibiotica)
Order: Scrophulariales (Scrophulariales)
Family: Bladderworts (Lentibulariaceae)
Habitat: temporary reservoirs in pampas of South America.
Many groups of plants had rather safely overcome the boundary of Holocene and Neocene, and evolved to new species in restored natural communities. Flesh-eating bladderworts (Utricularia) represented one of widely settled groups of carnivorous plants. In human epoch they lived in all continents, except for Antarctica, and this state of affairs had not changed in Neocene.
The majority of new species of bladderworts differs only a little from their ancestors, but there are also exceptions; for example, in swamps of Siberia and China giant bladderwort grows; it is a true giant among its relatives, and in opposite side of world, in prairies of South America, its distant relative named after antique monster grows.
In ancient myths the chimera was three-headed monster symbolically uniting three elements – fire, air and ground. Its South American namesake is capable to live at once in three elements: roots in the ground, leaves and stalks in air and in water, if such opportunity will be presented. This plant lives at the banks of shallow rivers and lakes in pampean zone of South America, which tend to dry up in dry season. The majority of bladderworts, certainly, represents more overland, rather than underwater plants, and prefers humid habitats of tropical forests. Other bladderworts, on the contrary, lead strictly aquatic way of life and can not survive on land. Chimeric bladderwort manages to use both worlds in any measure. It grows on the coasts of reservoirs and grows stalks of two kinds. The plant lives on damp ground and forms an upright stalk with short internodes and rounded leaves with slightly cut edges. At the top of stalk during rain season high (up to 50 cm) not branching inflorescence, cluster with alternate zygomorphic labiate flowers is formed. Each flower is up to 2 cm in diameter, colored white with large reddish-brown spot on lower labium. The flower is densely closed, and only heavy insect like beetle, fly or bee can creep into it. Having opened fauces of flower, it pours out pollen on its back; then insect will transfer it to another flower. Also mosquitoes and butterflies feed on flowers, but usually they simply push proboscis between lips of flower and do not make pollination. Seed breeding at this species occurs successfully: about a quarter of flowers produces seeds.
While the main plant lives on land, it grows long liana-looking shoots from axils of the bottom leaves. If they grow aside water, they begin changing, reacting to humidity of air. Leaves on them still have rounded outlines, but turn dissected stronger. Because of its own weight shoot falls in water soon and starts to form thin stalk with fluffy leaves dissected on threadlike lobes on which trapping bladders grow. With the help of these bladders plant catches tiny aquatic invertebrates while shoots of terrestrial type form new plants on land in vegetative way: the tip of long shoot takes roots and gives rise to new plant. If the shoot lays on the ground, it also takes roots in nodes; from these nodes new vertical shoots grow.
Underwater shoots can be transported to other reservoirs on legs of birds. In dry season they perish, but form in leaf axils pinecone-looking buds in firm environment, which keep viability in wet dirt. In the beginning of rain season from these buds both terrestrial and aquatic shoots can grow, depending on conditions in which the bud sprouts. Seeds easily endure drying and sprout soon after ground humidifying. Each ground shoot of plant lives till three years in favorable conditions. The plant is actively breeding in asexual way and forms dense thickets at the coast and in shallow water.
This species of plants was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.
Fly-catching tomato (Neolycopersicon
Order: Polemoniales (Polemoniales)
Family: Solanaceae (Solanaceae)
Habitat: South America, light forests in tropical and subtropical areas.
In human epoch South America was known as the centre of variety of tomatoes (genus Lycopersicon). Among these plants there were the species adapted to various habitats: for example, at Galapagos Islands one halicole species lived. The species had not been entered by people to agriculture appeared hardy enough in order to go through epoch of anthropogenous pressure and global ecological crisis at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene. In Neocene some descendants of tomatoes had got surprising adaptations for survival. People managed to select cultivars of tomato, which protected against small insects independently, keeping them with the help of sticky hairs. The descendant of one South American species of tomatoes developed the same ability independently of such tomato cultivars, but it had promoted in this feature even further. From the simple protective adaptation at this plant sticky hairs had turned to hunting instrument – the plant specially involves and catches tiny insects and mites. This species of plants is fly-catching tomato.
This plant catches insects not only to protect itself from harm. This species had adapted to life on poor ground, and its well-being depends on presence of insects. The fly-catching tomato exhausts the caught animals, receiving in such way necessary amount of mineral and organic substances. Hairs on its leaves have a special structure. Each hair represents a huge cell with strong covers. On the tip of hair the drop of sticky substance is secreted. When the insect lands on leaf and sticks to hairs, substances emitted by its body stimulate growth of tip of hair into the tissues an insect. The hair sprouts into the body of prey as a chain of thin-walled cells, which absorb its liquid contents. The plant consumes tiny soft-bodied insects – plant lice, thripses, small caterpillars and maggots – especially successfully. After nutrients will be absorbed, the hair dies off and withers, and the wind carries away devastated exoskeleton of insect. The young leaves richly covered with hairs catch insects more successfully. They are reddish because of anthocyan pigment protecting them from solar burn. For attraction of insects on some hairs drops of sweet liquid are secreted. This plant is positioned at early stage of specialization to feeding on insects and yet has no adaptations permitting to keep prey actively.
The first leaves of young plant are rounded, but on next leaves denticles at edges appear, passing later to deep cuts. Completely generated leaves are pinnatisected, dark green, slightly sticky and velvety to the touch. On adult leaves trapping hairs remain only on lateral lobes and on the edge of leaf. All parts of plant are protected from herbivores by alcaloids and have a specific smell.
Fly-catching tomato is a perennial plant. At the first year of life its stalk is vertical, but later it becomes ascending and takes roots in nodes. Lateral sprouts and top rise vertically, and the plant forms the dense thicket. This plant is pollinated by insects, and, in order not to catch casually its own pollinators, it moves flowers highly upwards on long flower-bearing stem. Flowers of fly-catching tomato are small, five-petaled and similar to flowers of the majority of Solanaceae. Petals grow together to short tube, and white peaked tips of petals are turned back. Fruit of this plant is small red berry. In ripen condition the fruit of plant is edible, and it is eaten willingly by large ground rodents.
Some species of bugs and beetles are adapted to “robbing” of this plant: they seize stuck insects from its leaves.
Pipe-flowered tobacco tree (Nicotiana longissimoflora)
Order: Polemoniales (Polemoniales)
Family: Solanaceae (Solanaceae)
Habitat: Great Antigua, tropical forest areas.
The inhabitancy of any species of live organisms includes not only abiotic factors (climate, precipitation amount, features of relief and ground), but also surrounding species. Every species inevitably interact with other species which play roles of predators, prey or parasites, pollinators or seed and spore distributors, commensals or symbiotes. And the pattern of interaction with these species renders great influence to evolution of any separately taken species.
At flowering plants interaction with animals is most brightly (in literal sense) shown at the example of evolution of adaptations to pollination. Flower corollas have various shapes and structure, and flowers produce the certain smell in order correspond to maximum to features of anatomy or behaviour of one or another pollinator and to exclude the appearing of any casual pollinators.
One example of strict specialization to the pollinator is displaying by the plant living in tropical forests of Great Antigua island, in tropical America. This species, pipe-fllowered tobacco tree, descends from feral domestic tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum), which had been cultivated widely in New World by people. Its descendant represents a large perennial plant with treelike stalk up to 6 m high. Pipe-flowered tobacco tree belongs to photophilous and fast-growing species. In underbrush of tropical forest plants of this species grow pale and thin and quickly perish because of lack of sunlight. This species grows as a pioneer plant at the sites of forest where the forest stand is damaged. Usually thickets of this species are formed in places where hurricanes had tumbled down an old tree, and it had crushed under itself some more trees, falling on the ground. Continuous thickets of this species meet also on the riverbanks.
In anatomy of pipe-flowered tobacco tree everything specifies that the plant uses to the full short-term advantages of growth on well light sites of the damaged forest. This is very fast growing plant which is capable to grow up to about three meters for one year. Its stalk initially is grassy and has bunches of rigid longitudinal fibres inside. But in due course of growth it lignifies in the bottom part, grows thick fast and becomes much stronger. The surface of stalk becomes covered with grey bark which gradually exfoliates as narrow strips. Leaves of this species are very large; in the bottom part of stalk their length may be about 1 meter. Leaves of young plant are simple and oval, with feather-veined reticulate venation. Surface of leaf between veins is slightly inflated and folded. Edges and the top side of leaf are covered with silvery hairs. Young leaves have richer downiness, and tops of shoots seem silvery because of it. Having reached the height of about five meters, the plant loses leaves on the bottom part of stalk and starts branching. Leaves on branches are smaller, than initial ones were – their length does not exceed 70 cm. But in shape they differ from ones developed in the first year of life of the plant: in the basis of leaf two appreciable lobes develop, which gradually increase to branch tips. On tips of branches leaves are three-lobed; lateral lobes make about half of the length of central blade of leaf in length. On tips of leaves long narrow “droppers” develop, helping to excrete the surplus of water.
Flowers of this plant begin appearing already at the second year of life. They appear as clusters on tips of branches. Flowering of this species represents a magnificent show. Flowers of pipe-flowered tobacco tree are tubular and hanging, with five rounded petals. Diameter of corolla is about 10 cm, but its length is unique for flora: about 50 cm. Flowers are bright red, covered with hairs reflecting ultra-violet radiation. They are pollinated only by one moth species – Antiguan giant hawk moth. Though insects do not distinguish red color, hairs on petals make flower well appreciable in ultra-violet light, and help the pollinator to find it. Moreover, flowers of this plant are very fragrant, and pollinator insect can feel their smell at the distance of about one kilometer. The biggest inflorescences develop on the top of plant: pollinator moth does not like to fly down too close to the ground. Occasionally insects of other species can get nectar of this plant. Solitary wasps and bees simply gnaw through the tube of flower at the basis and lick nectar, not making pollination.
Fruit of this plant represents dry capsule. After flowering growth of branch in length stops and it starts forking. Counting the number of branchings it is possible to define the age of this plant approximately. But pipe-flowered tobacco tree does not live for a long – the maximal age of this plant makes no more than ten years. In due course of growth this species is superseded by young growth of the trees making tropical forest, and gradually decays.
For protection against herbivores this plant produces a mix of poisonous alkaloids of similar chemical structure – nicotine, anabasine, coniine, hygrine etc. Only few herbivores can eat it. However animals frequently eat the old and fallen leaves containing residual amount of alcaloids in order to remove internal parasites, or wallow in foliage to expel parasites from wool or feathers. Only caterpillars of the pollinator moth can eat leaves of this plant unpunishedly.
The idea about existence of this species of plants was proposed by Anton, the forum member.
New Azora banana plantain, “Azorean banana” (Neomusa plantagoidea)
Order: Plantaginales (Plantaginales)
Family: Plantains (Plantaginaceae)
Habitat: New Azora, mountain areas of island.
The flora of islands in human epoch differed in presence of set of endemic species of grass plants which had turned from small species to giants of plant kingdom. At Hawaii treelike geraniums and lobelias lived, and at Saint Helena’s Island huge species of plantain Plantago robusta dwelt earlier. This plant had even received the name “St. Helena’s banana”. But the destiny of these species was not surviving after human extinction. Many species, including giant plantains, had died out, despite of human efforts of their preservation. In Neocene flora of islands new species of giant plantains had appeared, but they are not related to the similar species known in human epoch.
In mountain areas of New Azora one of such species of plants grows. This plant is a little similar to banana, but differs from it in rounded leaves with arc nervation. Because of similarity to banana the plant has received the name “Azorean banana”, and is officially named New Azorean banana plantain. However at the closer look at this plant the set of differences from the prototype of human epoch is appreciable. While the “trunk” of a banana was formed by petioles of leaves, at New Azora banana plantain there is true trunk – thick rhizome. It grows vertically, and can thicken and branch till the growth. It is covered with fibrous rests of leaves and rough bark protecting from damages. Under the ground surface thin rhizomes of other type stretch: they can bend upwards at any distance from parental plant and form new vertical stalks. Trunks of this plant are fibrous, elastic and rigid. The height of New Azorean banana plantain usually does not exceed 1 meter, but in remote mountain areas giants grow – long-livers about 2 meters high.
Tops of rhizome stalks of this plant are topped with crowns of wide oval leaves of dark green color on thick petioles. Leaves are downed with short rich hairs of grey color. Young leaves have especially rich downiness, that’s why the middle area of tuft looks silvery. The length of completely formed leaves of adult plant reaches one meter.
Approximately since the fifth year of life the stalk starts to form inflorescences. The inflorescence is formed in apex. It is the spadix characteristic for plantains covered with numerous small floscules. The height of inflorescence may reach one meter at the same length of peduncle. This plant is pollinated by insects; especially frequently on flowers of New Azorean banana plantain it is possible to meet beetles and various wasps. Small birds, and occasionally even bats fly to these inflorescences to feed on nectar, but they only incidentally participate in pollination of “Azorean banana”.
Fructification of New Azorean banana plantain is very interesting: when flowers are pollinated, the axis of inflorescence starts to grow thick, and the peduncle bends to the ground. Ovaries are immersed in expanding axis of inflorescence and become covered by dense environment. The pulp of inflorescence axis becomes friable and sweetish by taste, and thin skin gets bright orange color. Such inflorescence forms infructescence similar a little bit to pineapple one by the principle of formation. Seeds of this plant local gallinaceous birds – rock Azorean partridges – distribute. Birds peck infructescenses falling to the ground. Seeds, passing through the stomach of bird, not only do not perish, but even raise germinating ability: because of action of gastric juice their environment grows thin, that helps the germ to receive water and the mineral salts necessary for germination and development. The dung of birds gives the additional top dressing necessary for growth. But reproduction of this species is braked by small birds, which frequently peck off unripe ovaries from growing infructescenses.
After fructification growth of stalk stops for some time. When infructescence starts to ripen, near the basis of peduncle the new apex is formed, and strong stalks occasionally start to branch.
“Azorean banana” grows slowly: large plant can reach the age of 120 – 130 years, and the general life expectancy reaches 200 years and more.
astreca (Astreca spinosissima)
Habitat: Northern Africa, border of Mediterranean swamps.
Drying in late Holocene Mediterranean sea has essentially affected climate of districts surrounded it earlier. The territory of former Mediterranean began more droughty, and wind from Mediterranean hollow carry clouds of salt dust sedimenting far in depth of continents. In such conditions not all plants can normally exist, but some species adapted to such conditions prosper.
At the former African coast of Mediterranean sea among sickly grass groups of interesting plants about 2 meters height grow here and there. At first sight they are similar to small palm with prickly trunk, but, at more close look, it becomes evident, that it is not a relative of palm at all
This fantastical plant is spiniest astreca, one of inhabitants of droughty districts surrounding Mediterranean lowland. The name “astreca” is made of words “aster”, a plant showing belonging to family Asteraceae, and “areca” that means “palm”.
The thick succulent stalk of astreca has five longitudinal sharp edges, and its cross cut is similar to star. Each edge is plentifully bristled up by sharp strong spikes reliably preserving plant against large herbivores. Stalk poorly branches, giving from the basis two - three large lateral sprouts. Trunks of astreca are covered with dense thin skin partly lignifying in the bottom part.
But spikes on trunk are not the main feature of astreca giving to it “palm-like” shape. Stalks of this plant are topped with crown of dark green pinnate leaves about one meter long. Along the middle nerve of leaves light silvery strip passes. Under alive leaves the rests of dried up last year's leaves hang down like fringe – though they are dead, they still play the vital role, protecting stalk from sun burns. Each leaf from above and from below along main and large lateral nerves has lines of sharp thin spikes – it is the reliable weapon against teeth of gluttonous herbivores. Died out leaves do not fall down also because their spikes so regularly take part in protection of plant.
On the bottom surface of leaves silver-white hairs richly grow, giving to wrong side characteristic felt-like structure. Such adaptation helps to evaporate water in less quantity: stomas are on the bottom side of leaves, and hairs soften contrast between medium inside leaves and drying up heat outside.
Plants of family Asteraceae are champions of vegetative multiplying. At meter depth under ground astreca forms an extensive circuit of rhizomes on which offsprings are formed. Therefore one plant in suitable conditions quickly expands to original thin grooves.
During short rain season astreca grows quickly. For some months the plant increases up to 20 cm in height, and forms about two tens large leaves. In conditions of plentiful humidifying on old 7 - 10-years trunks peduncles develop. Inflorescences of astreca are small yellow heads of hermaphrodite flowers, surrounded with dry reddish-brown leaves of inflorescence covers. Heads are gathered in large common corymb-like inflorescence on long peduncle. It develops on top of old trunk of plant and is visible from apart. Solitary wasps and butterflies pollinate astreca basically, though occasionally it is possible to see beetles and flies on inflorescences of plant.
To the beginning of dry season seeds of astreca ripen. After their ripening the stalk of plant given a peduncle, dies off. But near it the young growth, which soon will get stronger, already grows up.
In desert there is not so much animals may become seed carriers, therefore astreca had selected simple vital strategy, characteristic for set of plant species: its seeds are carrying by wind. Tiny seeds of astreca have white parachutes with which help they are carried at the big distance. In such way astreca was settled on all coast of Mediterranean swamps, and even grows on some mountains of Mediterranean lowland, having formed some well differing species.
Seeds of astreca keep germinating ability for a long time, waiting for favorable conditions till some years. After rain they sprout quickly, and young sprout starts to form the crown of leaves on ground surface, and its long root reaches to damp deep layers of ground. For the second year of life the elevated trunk starts to form, reaching full development to 10-years age. At the third year of life plant starts to form horizontal rhizomes from which new offsprings grow in various sides.
In Northern Africa, on islands of Mediterranean swamps and in Southern Europe some related species of this plant live:
Astrophytum-like astreca (Astreca astrophytoides) is the inhabitant of dry mountain areas of Mediterranean lowland. It differs by short thick trunk (height of plant is about half meter) with large fleshy edges covered with short spikes. The form of trunk of this species of astreca resembles cactus of genus Astrophytum. Leaves are narrow, densely downed from below, covered from above with numerous sharp hairs.
The peduncle is very short, inflorescence consists at all from 3 - 4 heads of yellow flowers with pink dry leaves of cover.
More often this species meets in cracks of rocks by small groups, avoiding salt soils.
Palm-like astreca (A. palmetto) meets in Northwest Africa, at the Gibraltar isthmus and in Southern Europe. Living in rather damper conditions, this species is characterized by high trunks (up to 5 meters height), a plenty of long narrow leaves (length about 1 meter at width about 10 cm). Leaves are pinnatilobate, on the tip of each lobe sharp spike sticks up. Trunk is 5 - 6-edged; edges are narrow, slightly wavy, covered with single long spikes.
The peduncle is long (up to 1 meter); it carries a plenty of small heads with white cover leaves.
This species meets in separate groups lengthways of riverbeds and near temporary reservoirs, preferring relatively humidified ground.
Giant desert daisy (Taraxacaulis crassiradix)
Order: Asterales (Asterales)
Family Asteraceae (Asteraceae)
Habitat: semi-arid areas of Mediterranean lowland.
Rigorous conditions of life result in occurrence in animals and plants of the various adaptations permitting them to survive. In the epoch previous to Neocene, climate of Earth was rigorous and contrast, having caused to life set of species of live organisms adapted to extreme conditions. In Neocene the climate began much softer, and species adapted to rigorous conditions of inhabitancy have started to die out. But even in Neocene on Earth places with very rigorous conditions of life were kept. They became original “reserves” and “ranges” for the plants living in extreme conditions, and in these places evolution has continued “to perfect” their adaptation. One of such areas is the district around of former Mediterranean sea which has turned to congestion of salt swamps and lakes in huge hollow had being earlier its bottom.
In epoch of large geological or climatic cataclysms the most undemanding and widely widespread species survive with the greater probability. Therefore it is no wonder, that an ancestor of one of interesting plants of semi-desert at the edge of Mediterranean bogs was the usual dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis). However, in human epoch classification of dandelions to species was the extremely uncertain because of wide variability of these plants. Obviously, the pledge of success of these plants in Neocene also had been hidden in it.
The descendant of dandelion, the giant desert daisy, lives in droughty areas of Asia and Northern Africa, preferring stony and clay ground. It represents stalk-less grass, being somewhat reminiscent of the ancestor. At this plant leaves are much larger, than at dandelion: about 30 - 40 cm long with thick main nerve and pinnated edges. On angular lobes of leaves along the edge thin sharp spikes stick up. The bottom surface of leaves is covered with grayish felt film of hairs; top is glossy. Young leaflets are richly covered with hairs even from above, but in process of development of leaves downiness remains only on the bottom surface. Leaves lay on the ground as wide crown, and last year's leaves can remain on plant one - two years more, protecting plant from herbivores, and ground under it from overheat.
On depth of approximately one meter under ground surface the most important part of plant, the thick tap root forming some kind of “root crop” grows. At the largest plants of this species it may reach length one and half meters at thickness more than half meter and weight about 100 kg. It is covered with thin elastic bark, and from it some lateral roots grow asides. Here there is a stock of water carefully gathered by plant during rare rains. At this time on ground surface numerous soaking roots grow, absorbing rainwater and dew. In drought they wither, but the plant does not endure lack of water: its main root grow deep into ground down to 20 - 30 meters and more, reaching water-bearing layers. Even if the animal like an insect or a rodent will manage to burrow to the “root crop”, it will have not enough benefit from it: sap of plant contains a plenty of latex, and thickens on air. At top of “root crop” there is sanctuary of plant – its apex. If it appears damaged, the plant stops growth, but the next year in the beginning of rain season it will develop two, or even three apexes developing from sleeping buds.
In the beginning of rain season wrinkled “root crop” gradually absorbs water, and the plant slightly “rises”, growing up from under the ground a crown of young leaves. And in dry season roots retract and involve “root crop” deeply in ground, leaving on surfaces only dying off leaves.
In short rain season giant desert daisy begins to blossom. Peduncles of these species are short, and yellow inflorescences (heads typical for all family) almost lay on the ground in middle of crown formed by leaves: so the plant is less appreciable from afar for herbivorous mammals. But it involves to itself not numerous pollinators (mainly beetles and flies) with a specific smell: a mix of pleasant flower and putrefactive aromas. Flowering lasts not for long: no more than one week. After pollination seeds quickly ripen, and the peduncle starts to grow. It bears ripening seeds on meter tall above ground. Seeds of giant desert daisy are similar to seeds of dandelion: they are small, have thick environment and characteristic pappus as they are carried by wind. After fructification the plant keeps leaves not for long, and by the end of summer at it the dormant period comes: the elevated part dies off, and the plant spends in rest an autumn, winter and the beginning of spring, remaining green less than half-year.
This species develops for a long time: the plant begins to blossom for the first time only at five years' age when its “root crop” reaches weight of 10 - 15 kg.
Giant desert daisy easily distributes by seeds, therefore it frequently grows in foothills on island “oases” of the Mediterranean swamps. But here large local herbivores, Antheos tortoises, can eat it, causing the big damage to slowly growing plant.
oromatrica (Oromatrica argenteofolia)
Habitat: Himalayas, alpine meadows at southern slopes.
In Neocene Himalayas still keep a title of highest mountains of Earth. Here, at huge height, still the most part of year the cold and snow reign, though in lower valleys and on southern slopes it happens very hot in summer.
Vegetation of Himalayas is variable, though severe conditions of life have made many plants very similar to each other. Sometimes, it is difficult to distinguish poppy from carnation or bluebell while plants will blossom – their leaves and stalks are so similar. The majority of grasses of Himalayas has creeping or strongly short branchy stalks, and leaves forming rich polsters between stones. Such form of growth protects them from cold winter winds: snow quickly closes these undersized plants, and they successfully winter, despite of winter colds.
But among mountain flora there are not only undersized species pressing closely to the ground. Here and there on slopes inaccessible to herbivorous animals, the unusual plant, oromatrica (literally “mountain camomile”) grows. It strongly differs by shape from the majority of Himalayan grasses. At this plant there is thick upright trunk about half meter tall, covered with dry rests of leaves. At top of trunk live leaves grow – they are strongly dissected, having silvery downiness on the bottom part. It is main protection of plant against colds: to winter leaves turn upwards, closing apex and protecting it from frost. Covered by snow, this plant is practically indistinguishable from stones. Leaves have unpleasant smell and bitter taste protecting them from different herbivores. But, despite of it, large herbivorous animals nevertheless eat these plants - in winter even such forage is better, than starvation is.
In spring when snow thaws, growth of oromatrica begins. Live leaves on top of plant open, and between them young leaves grow. Silvery hairs covering leaves protect them from superfluous sunlight and reflect pernicious ultraviolet rays. In stalks there is a stock of nutrients, therefore this plant can recover even after all its top part was eaten by animals or has been broken by snow avalanche. Then on the rest of stalk lateral sprouts grow, and the plant forms sprawling bush. Young leaves can endure rather strong night frosts – spring comes in high mountains not at once, and sometimes winter may return for some days, and even weeks. But sooner or later the rests of snow thaw, and there comes warm weather. The plant actively forms new sprouts and restores roots. The root system of oromatrica is basically superficial and also forms the ramified circuit covering large stones: it helps to gather dew which is flowing down on them in the morning. Landslides and avalanches frequently damage roots of oromatrica, but they are quickly restored - slow growth in mountains obviously does not promote survival.
When warm weather is finally established, and danger of night light frosts leaves, oromatrica begins blossoming. Inflorescences of this plant are similar to camomiles with short white petals (more precisely – edge semiflosculous flowers in inflorescences). They tower above a plant on long ramified peduncle. Flowers smell pleasantly, involving various insects: this plant is undemanding to pollinators. After the pollination on inflorescence small seeds with fluffy pappus ripen. When they will completely ripen, their pappuses extend and open. The first rush carries seeds, but only few of them will get in conditions favorable for growth. Having fallen on the ground, seeds do not sprout at once: winter should pass before they will go to growth, and some seeds sprout only after two winters at all.
Within the first summer of life the young plant forms the crown of leaves on short stalk, and starts blossoming only since the second year. Life expectancy of this plant is about 13 – 16 years.
At highest mountains the closely related species grows:
Cabbage oromatrica (Oromatrica pseudobrassica) – it is more undersized plant: it forms “cabbage head” of leaves on short stalk. In severe conditions when even in heat of summer the temperature does not increase above +15°С, and light frosts at night are possible, this plant manages to grow and blossom. The apex of this plant is constantly closed by fluffy young leaves, and light frosts do not harm to it. Peduncles of this plant are short, and petals are covered with thin layer of wax and reflect ultra-violet light, involving rare insects of high mountains.
Leafless sea aster (Aphyllaster littoralis)
Order: Asterales (Asterales)
Family: Asteraceae (Asteraceae)
Habitat: littoral zone from Northwest Europe up to North Africa, Iceland, New Azora.
In Neocene the shore line of Northern Europe had undergone significant changes. When weight of thousand cubic kilometers of glaciers holding down the significant areas of continent, had disappeared, the north of Euroasian lithospheric plate began to rise. The sea receded in significant territories, and the former sea-bottom turned to plains on which there were the saline lakes drying up later. The territory, occupied by Northern Sea in human epoch, had turned to extensive marshy plains with the separate heights overgrown with forest. Baltic Sea had turned to extensive brackish Venedian Lake isolated from Atlantic Ocean basin. Cold current Anti-Gulf Stream determines the climate of these places: cool foggy summer similar to late spring, smoothly passing to early autumn. In summer in the mornings there are thick mists leaving plentiful dew on leaves of coastal plants.
The coast of Northern Europe to the south of Scandinavia represents wide strip of saline marshlands, where action of inflow is strongly felt. Ground and water are saline here, and sea representatives of fauna meet in shallow reservoirs at the great distance from ocean. Flowering plants actively develop this area, forming set of endemic species adapted to existence in conditions of ground salinity.
At small distance from ocean in littoral zone there is the interesting plant maintaining twice per day the pressure of tidal waves – leafless sea aster. This is low plant with thick edged branches divided to segments. Edges are extended in flat wide “wings” with spikes on edge, and serve for photosynthesis. The true leaves of plant are reduced up to filmy covers protecting young sprouts. When sprout starts to develop, cover leaves quickly dry up and fall down. Such development of leaves is the necessity: during the inflow there is a threat of damage of plant, therefore leafless sea aster has lost soft and delicate leaves, having turned in rigid plant similar to coral.
On young sprout edges are small – the probability of the damaging of young sprouts by tidal wave is less so. Till the process of development of mechanical tissues they expand and strengthened. Leafless sea aster lives in conditions of surplus of salt, therefore along edges of stalk glands secreting brine as rich drops are located. In outflow brine dries up on the sun as white flakes on edges, and then is washed off by inflow.
For additional protection against salt sea water the surface of plant is covered with thin wax film especially strongly advanced on young sprouts. Because of it they have strongly expressed glaucescent shade. The sense of this adaptation is, that at outflow water does not stay on the plant and does not form the crust of salt, complicating photosynthesis, on it.
In spring, when it becomes warm enough, leafless sea aster begins to blossom. Inflorescences of this plant look beautiful – they are white with pinkish middle, a little bit similar by the shape to chamomile flower with “fluffy” middle and wide petals; their diameter is about 4 – 6 cm. Semiflosculous flowers are located in one line at the edge of inflorescence. Medial flowers are supplied with long pinkish outgrowths of perianth. Inflorescences form on very high strong stems growing above the level of highest inflow. On one plant it may be over 20 inflorescences blossoming simultaneously. This plant blossoms after cool wintering: during the period of relative rest in axils of last year's stalks flower buds are formed. This feature limits the ability of leafless sea aster to breeding by seeds – the plant exists normally only in conditions of expressed seasonal changes of climate. This plant is pollinated by various insects – more often by beetles and bees, but occasionally on its inflorescences butterflies feed. Flowering lasts till more than two months. At this time places of growth of leafless sea aster look very beautifully: flowers bring bright accent in dim green-and-brown palette of interdial zone.
Seeds with fluffy crest ripen at the end of summer. When they develop completely, the base of inflorescence is curved outside, and they are carried by wind. Due to this feature the plant is widely settled along the coast of Europe, having reached even the coast of Iceland. At New Azora and African coast this plant blossoms seldom – only after especially cool winter, when flower buds form.
Except for seeds, leafless sea aster is settled with the help of sprouts. Tidal waves frequently break off branches of this plant and carry them away in ocean. Parts of plant are able to survive for a long time, floating in sea water. Due to such ability this plant was settled even further to the south, but southern populations of this species do not blossom.
“Flora’s fan” (Flabellisenecio monstrosus)
Order: Asterales (Asterales)
Family: Asteraceae (Asteraceae)
Habitat: South Africa, hillsides.
At plants of various botanical families and orders one interesting feature of growth is known – it is the producing of cristate forms. In this case the apex turns to a line of growth, and the stalk of plant instead of the cylindrical or ridge form becomes flat and crest-like, or has twisting edges. Such forms were frequently observed in human epoch at plants of cacti family: among them a lot of species of various genera formed such forms. Less often the producing of cristate form was observed at plants of other families: at succulent spurges (Euphorbiaceae), crassulas (Crassulaceae) and Celosia (Amaranthaceae). Usually cristate forms of plants could exist for a long time only in conditions made by people, and in nature they did not maintain a competition to usual form of the same species. But in droughty deserts of South Africa a rare case had taken place, when this kind of deformity has turned to an attribute favourable to survival.
Among the rocks heated by the midday sun, strongly keeping by roots for poor ground, one of the freakish plants of Neocene, “Flora’s fan” grows. It is stem succulent, which has got water-stocking stalk due to formation of the cristate form. “Flora’s fan” has two types of sprouts – cristate and typical ones. Perennial caudex of this species has cristate form and represents fan-shaped structure (hence the name of this plant) about one meter high. As it grows, it becomes thicker, the bottom part covers by suberificate bark, and from the basis to edges of caudex sharpen edges stretch. Edges of caudex, where the growth zone is located, are slightly wavy. The edge of fan-shaped caudex has green border: the growth of last two years keeps a function of photosynthesis. But older parts of caudex become covered by dense skin, turning later to dense grey-brown peel. “Flora’s fan” is original “compass plant” of deserts of the south of Africa: fan-shaped caudex grows by the north – south line in order to avoid hot beams of midday sun (in southern hemisphere in midday it stays at the north). In the basis of caudex additional buds form, and from them young stalks of fanlike shape develop.
On edge of fan-shaped caudex the short normal sprouts grow. They have thick cylindrical pentahedral stalks – possible, the ancestral form of this plant initially had similar stalks. On sprouts of usual type prickles develop in the beginning, and then narrow leathery leaves with small prickles on edge. These sprouts are short and do not branch. Having reached the length of about 20 cm, they stop growth, and on them small inflorescences develop – heads of yellow color gathered to common corymb-like inflorescence at the tip of stalk. For protection against herbivores the surface of caudexes and stalks is covered with small prickles. Also prickles develop on edges of caudex and annual sprouts. Prickles on caudex are the modified leaves had kept only thick central nerve, and on sprouts of usual type prickles are formed by lignificate outgrowths of edges.
After deflowering leaflets of inflorescence covers supplied with tiny prickles, protect developing seeds. In dry season when seeds with fluffy cops ripen, the cover opens, unbends, releasing seeds, and dries up. Seeds of “Flora’s fan” are carried with the help of wind. Soon after seed ripening sprouts of usual type die off. After them at the edge of caudex the lines of stamps of characteristic appearance stay; they are especially large at plants of the age of 8 – 15 years. By their quantity it is possible to count the age of plant which begins to blossom for the first time at the fourth year of life. During the drought on caudex wrinkles appear, and the last year’s growth dries up a little. At the beginning of new rain season the caudex quickly restores stocks of water. On its edge the growth of new tissue begins, and then the next line of new sprouts is formed.
Life expectancy of this plant seldom exceeds 30 years.
Live-bearing papyrus (Cyperus viviparus)
Order: Poales (Poales)
Family: Sedges (Cyperaceae)
Habitat: Central Africa, swamps and riverbanks.
In human epoch the significant part of forests of Central Africa had been cut down, and plantations and other artificial plantings were stretched instead of them. But along riverbanks, where extensive bogs had stretched, forests had kept in more ar less complete condition. Difficulties of lumbering and niduses of infections dangerous for people have helped to islets of natural communities to be kept, and then they became a pledge of the future revival of forests after extinction of mankind. In Neocene tropical rainforests occupy a significant part of Central Africa. Many forests are swampy, and here in forest canopy there are gleams, and trees are replaced by giant grassy plants. One of dominant species of swamp plants is live-bearing papyrus.
This species is not a descendant of true papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) – that species became a rarity in human epoch and had gradually died out. Live-bearing papyrus descended from any small species of Cyperus which stretch their umbellate shoots in marshes of tropical countries.
In comparison with its ancestors this species had considerably changed. The height of stalks of this species reaches 5 – 6 meters at the diameter at the basis of about 40 cm. Stalks of live-bearing papyrus are smooth and strong, filled inside with friable parenchyma. They grow from the thick rhizome reaching 10-meter length at thickness from above half meter. Rhizome grows under ground and creeps on the surface of ground if thickets grow in water. An internal part of rhizome is amylaceous, and external layers of tissues are very strong and suberificate. On the surface of rhizome additional buds develop, from which lateral branches grow, and also buds giving rise to stalks are formed. On underwater parts of rhizome scale-like rudimentary leaves, in which axils buds develop, are well appreciable.
The top of overground shoot at this species is crowned with an umbrella of long (up to 1 meter) narrow dark green leaves rigid and rough to the touch. The young stalks, which have not finished the growth, differ in bright green color and sticky surface of leaves. Young shoot grows actively during approximately two weeks, and then is kept during two years if it will not be eaten by herbivorous animals. At the second year of life shoot begins to blossom. Flowers of this plant are ordinary-looking, gathered in spikelets at tops of long thin flower-bearing stems. This plant is pollinated by wind, but the significant role in its pollination is also played by small beetles which gather on the inflorescences, involved with an abundance of pollen.
Not each flower of this plant turns to fruit. Nevertheless, this plant has developed a special way of breeding due to which it can occupy new territories quickly. In crone of shoot, in leaf axils, buds sprout. From them instead of inflorescences young and tiny plants with roots and shoots develop. Heavy roots of daughter plant are rich in starch – it is a stock of nutrients and means of maintenance of balance. Shoots, on the contrary, are lightweight and parenchymatous. The horizontal rhizome at daughter plant does not develop yet, and some shoots grow from buds at the basis of first of them. The young plant receives water and mineral substances from parental shoot, and grows actively. When it becomes too heavy, it breaks off a crone of adult plant, falls in water and floats in current, keeping vertical position. Cast ashore, such plant quickly takes roots and starts development. In such way live-bearing papyrus easily occupies new habitats. Sometimes young plants of this species float to the ocean, but in sea water they perish quickly.
Hamster's wheat (Syntriticum dimorphosperma)
Order: Poales (Poales)
Family: Graminoids (Poaceae)
Habitat: steppes of Three-Rivers-Land, Middle and Central Asia.
In the nature very often there were unions of plants and animals, in which animals played a role of “owners” of plants, creating by the activity favorable conditions for plants development. Such unions arose in parallel in different areas of Earth at species of different systematic groups. For example, within human memory different insects, ants and termites, cultivated microscopic fungi on rotting vegetative material. Millions years of co-evolution had resulted in occurrence of separate species of fungi normally developing only in symbiosis with insects.
In Eurasia of Neocene epoch the situation had repeated: in steppes the new symbiosis of plant and animal had appeared. The background of this symbiosis is extremely remarkable: it originates in human epoch. Human agricultural activity had generated the special forms of graminoids, wheat and rye, with large seeds ideally adapted to settling with the human help. Cultural cereals appeared so changed by artificial selection that the majority of their forms appeared unable to exist without people and had died out. But some forms of cultural wheat had survived in steppes of Eurasia due to activity of animals against which people waged ruthless war till thousand years – rodents. When the people had disappeared, rodents began to carry seeds of graminoids cultivated before by people. Running wild graminoids lost the attributes acquired till thousand years of selection and adapted to new seed carriers. This way in Eurasian steppes new species of these plants had appeared.
The separate species of graminoids was generated in conditions of symbiosis with farmer hamster, one of steppe rodents. This animal had passed from simple gathering of seeds of wild graminoids to true cultivating of fodder plants at its territory. One species of graminoids grows especially good in conditions of similar care and has adapted to coexistence with farmer hamster. Its possible ancestor is feral wheat (Triticum) widely cultivated by people, and its descendant is named hamster's wheat. Main feature of hamster's wheat permitting it to receive advantages from the union with gluttonous rodent is features of seeds. At hamster's wheat there is the special structure of flowers: they grow together in clusters of three ones, and the ear of this plant is made of such “triplets”. The middle flower in “triplet” is not pollinated, but from it large parthenocarpic seed with normally advanced embryo is formed. It is rather large and also is able to sprout in favorable conditions. From sides two another flowers forming seeds only at pollination grow to the middle flower. For this feature the plant had received the genus name “Syntriticum” – “joint wheat”. At lateral flowers of hamster's wheat seeds are small and covered with dense environment. They have the concave shape and surround the middle parthenocarpic seed like a peel. Their covers are firm, and it is difficult to gnaw them; the rodent, as a rule, disregards these seeds, clearing from them and cracking only larger middle seed. Seeds of the second type thrown out in common with dust sprout the next year.
At northern and western borders of area this plant is annual – the underground part of plant does not maintain a frost in conditions of continental climate. Only under thick layer of snow the part of roots hibernates more or less successfully. At the coast of Fourseas and in western part of Three-Rivers-Land steppes climate is rather warm, and the plant becomes perennial – it grows at the same place till three years in succession and even longer at the extreme south of area. The shape of hamster's wheat is typical for graminoids: at it there are high, up to one meter, strong culm stalks and long narrow leaves. Hamster's wheat gives new buds in the basis of stalk and forms friable bushes. One sprout forms till the growth season a bush on which it is formed about ten ears weighting 20 grams each other to an autumn.
In mixed herbages competitiveness of this species is too low. The plant survives much more successfully in the union with farmer hamster. This animal raises chances of hamster's wheat to survival, carries its seeds and looks after “allotments” cutting plants competing to this species.
First weeks of life the plant develops rather slowly – at this stage of development other grasses, especially wide-leaved ones not belong to graminoids easily muffle it. Hamster's wheat expands, giving from the basis of main stalk lateral sprouts. To the beginning of summer all sprouts start to grow quickly and the plant overtakes former competitors. The plant quickly reaches one meter height and forms ears with long stigmas and plentiful dry pollen. Pollen of hamster's wheat falls from anthers approximately in midday time during one hour. In same time stigmas of pestles are susceptible to pollen. The plant is self-sterile and is only cross-pollinated. The wind carries its pollen: it is the common feature of all graminoids. Seeds ripen to the middle of an autumn. In southern areas where the vegetative season is long, flowering and fructification pass by two waves – the plant flowers second time on lateral sprouts approximately one month after the basic flowering. Thus seeds also ripen in two portions.
Gorgeous urushiphila (Urushiphila spectabilis)
Order: Orchids (Orchidales)
Family: Orchids (Orchidaceae)
Habitat: forests of Japan.
Orchids are most variative family of flowering plants in Holocene epoch. They had reached the success in struggle for existence with the help of two important adaptations. First of them is high specialization to entomophily. Each species of orchids is pollinated by few species of insects, and sometimes only by one of them. The plant develops the special adaptations in structure of flower, excluding the feeding of “strangers”, casual species of insects, on flowers. The second component of their success is the close symbiosis with fungi. Due to it orchids had solved two problems. They can survive on poor substrata due to the ability of fungi to transform mineral substances to easily consuming by plant form. It has permitted to orchids to succeed in ecological niche of epiphyte. And the second problem, tiny seeds assisting to epiphyte to settle, also was solved with the help of fungi. Penetrating to seed of orchid, fungus delivers to microscopic germ nutrients, providing its development at early stages.
Symbiosis has permitted to some species of orchids of Holocene epoch to pass to other way of life, rather than the majority of plants – to become saprophytes having lost chlorophyll and leaves. Such orchids live, eating substances delivered to them by fungi. And some orchids of Neocene epoch had replaced the character of relations with surrounding species of plants and fungi, having turned to specialized parasites. One species of parasitic orchids grows in Neocene in Japan Islands. It grows attaching to roots of amazing local plant – “death tree”, one of the most poisonous plants of the world. The orchid is named urushiphila: “urushi” is the Japanese name of poisonous sumach.
The union of the parasitic plant and the poisonous host plant had taken place in Holocene. One species of sandal tree (Santalum) parasitized at the poisonous upas tree (Antiaris), and the poison of the host plant had penetrated into it up to leaves. Urushiphila is also literally impregnated with poison of “death tree”, using it for protection against pest insects. Only its flowers are lack of poison.
Urushiphila represents a plant lack of chlorophyll and deeply specialized to parasitic habit of life. Leaves of this orchid are reduced up to small scales surrounding the basis of peduncle. Stalk of urushiphila is long ramified rhizome growing in ground at the depth about 20 cm. It reaches length of several meters and forms numerous knotty inflows. On them flower buds from which flowers are serially formed develop.
Besides of “death tree” urushiphila adheres to roots of some sumach species.
Flowers of urushiphila large and single, reaching the diameter of about 5 cm. at the peduncle it may be two flowers occasionally – at the ancestor of urushiphila the inflorescence represented a rich truss. Flowers rise from ground to the height of about 30 – 40 cm and have strong pleasant aroma. Their petals are white and pointed; labium is cup-like and pinkish. Due to white colouring flowers of urushiphila are well appreciable in twilight of underbrush. At the labium of the plant the long spur directed downwards is formed; honeycups are located in its deep. It makes the pollination of urushiphila the privilege of insects with long proboscises. This plant is pollinated by butterflies, and on its flowers the urushi swallowtail, the large species of local butterflies, feeds often. It is the basic pollinator of urushiphila.
Urushiphila exists literally “at the verge of nonexistence”, balancing between life and death. On the one hand, microscopic soil fungi are necessary for germination of its seeds, but on the other hand secretions of leaves of the host plant kill the mycelium. The plant had solved this problem rather simply: it patiently waits while the host plant will find it itself.
Seeds of urushiphila have the microscopic size: it is the common feature of all orchids. They sprout with the help of mycelium which penetrates into seeds. First years of life the orchid exists as saprophyte, accumulating forces for “attack” to the host tree. It grows rather slowly and does not blossom, representing a shapeless underground tuber with thin skin. The situation changes when the sprout of host plant appears near it. When young “death tree” starts to develop, under influence of substances emitting by it the mycelium starts to degrade. It is one of signals for the tuber of urushiphila modifying the physiology of the plant: at orchid the feeding root grows actively searching for roots of host tree under the ground. The orchid feels root secretions of the host plant and directs feeding root to its side. For the formation of this root stocks of nutrients had been accumulated till many years of underground existence are expended. The orchid even starts to “digest” actively hyphae of the fungus permitted it to sprout. Urushiphila “inserts” to the development of root all nutrients. If it could not reach the host plant, the tuber starts to degrade and the plant perishes. Many tubers of this plant may be eaten by various underground animals or perish when the necessary plant had not appeared near the tuber.
But at successful coincidence of circumstances the plant wins “main prize” in struggle for existence – after the attachment to tree the orchids start to develop much more actively. It quickly increases the weight of rhizome and actively generates flower buds. From germination of seed to the first flowering sometimes about 15 years pass. Expanding, the rhizome of urushiphila can adhere to near trees of the host plant species.
Urushiphila meets in woods of Japan Islands seldom enough. But in places favorable for life it forms mass congestions – among trees tens flowers of this plant rise.
Protected myrmiorchis, ant orchid (Myrmiorchis tutus)
Order: Orchids (Orchidales)
Family: Orchids (Orchidaceae)
Habitat: rainforest of South America; epiphytic plant.
In human epoch many species of plants entered symbiosis with ants were known. Plants formed in the body special cavities in which ants settled, and in exchange not only used excretions and waste products of ants, taking nutrients from them, but also received reliable protection. Among “green friends” of ants there were acacias, some other trees, and also numerous epiphytes. Among numerous species of orchids plants of genera Schomburgkia, Coryanthes and Gongora had hollow stalks served as a refuge of ants. In Neocene independently of them similar relations with these bellicose insects one more orchid had formed – myrmiorchis, the epiphytic plant of South American rainforests.
This plant has sprouts of two types. Dense oval leaves of orchid grow on short vertical sprouts. The main mass of plant is made of thick creeping rhizome, which creeps along a branch on which the orchid has settled. The rhizome is especially unusual, because on it zones of secondary growth develop. This phenomenon extremely seldom meets not only at orchids, but also at monocotyledon plants, to which orchids belong, in general.
Young apical part of rhizome is smooth. It partly rises above substratum and is covered with leaves. When leaves fall down, from buds secondary sprouts start to develop. The old part of rhizome begins changing: occurrence of zones of secondary growth has casual character, and the rhizome gets irregular shape. It becomes knobby, in it apertures and cavities, and also additional apexes form. Old rhizome reaches length of about one meter and half-meter width.
Ants of various species protecting orchid against pests live in cavities of myrmiorchis rhizome. Besides dung and rests of prey of ants are sources of organic substances necessary for growth of this epiphytic plant.
But the union of orchid and ants has the back side. Ants perfectly protect orchid from various herbivorous insects damaging leaves and rhizome of plant. But they equally successfully can attack pollinator insects, vital for this orchid. Therefore myrmiorchis had developed the adaptation allowing to pollinating insects to visit its flowers, not risking getting to ant’s mandibles. The plant simply interferes with access of ants to flower-bearing stems. At the medium part of each flower-bearing stem, lower than the lowermost flower is located, there is original “cuff” some centimeters long consisting of long rigid bristles of different length. Ant may hardly overcome it, and these insects seldom appear on flowers of myrmiorchis.
Flowers of myrmiorchis are adapted to pollination by butterflies. The inflorescence of this plant represents lax truss of 15 – 20 flowers on high (about 60 cm long) vertical flower-bearing stem. Flower of myrmiorchis has rounded petals, and also is small and white. It has small labium passing to long spur turned down and forward. In labium there are some thin stripes of purple hairs, indicating to pollinator insect the way to nectar. Some dots of the same color may be in the basis of petals.
Myrmiorchis develops quickly enough – this plant begins to blossom already at the fifth year of life. This orchid differs in fast growth, forming a bush up to three kgs in weight to the moment of flowering.
ladies'-slipper (Coronopedium bromeliaephyllum)
Habitat: islands of Indian Ocean.
Orchid family is the biggest and rich in species one among all flowering plants. Its representatives are grass plants have mastered various places of inhabiting. Among them there are most of all epiphytes, but there are ground species, and also orchids living in marshes, and even aquatic plants are known. In Australia in human epoch some species of orchids constantly growing, and even blossoming under ground were known. One of features, which have provided success of orchids in struggle for existence, is their symbiosis with fungi. Some orchids have developed it excessively: they have lost chlorophyll, and live only due to organic substances of ground which acquire with the help of fungi.
Seeds of orchids are very tiny, looking similar to dust. They sprout and develop only then when the mycelium of the certain species of fungus will sprout in them.
The significant part of orchids lives in tropics, but in temperate climate they also are rather various. These plants may be met both in damp tropical woods, and in rather dry savannas. In Neocene epoch some representatives of orchids due to tiny seeds carrying by winds have got from Indonesia to islands of Indian Ocean and have occupied their ecological niche in island woods.
Orchid living on these islands, is rather original even then, when it does not bloom. It is an epiphyte: strangely enough, on trees it is easier to find water necessary for life, than on the ground: subsoil waters on islands are salt because of affinity of ocean. Therefore rain is a unique reliable source of fresh water on islands. But rain water needs to be gathered and kept, and orchid from islands successfully makes it. At it there is short stalk, and curved leaves form the dense crown. During rains water gathers in crown, forming special mini-pools. The same feature is characteristic for South-American plants of bromeliad family (Bromeliaceae), therefore because of this analogy the orchid has received the name bromeliad-leaved ladies'-slipper. Leaves of this ladies'-slipper are covered with spots merging to cross strips – it also amplifies similarity to bromeliads. For bromeliads such similar striped figure is also characteristic. Diameter of such crown reaches half meter, and depth is up to 20 cm. In one crown of adult plant about two litres of rain water may gather. In this water larvae of mosquitoes and midges frequently find a shelter, and also larger animals may settle: snails and ground cancers which even hatch posterity, sitting in these plants.
To save water, at this orchid other adaptation was also developed: leaves are covered with thin layer of wax. It prevents, on the one hand, superfluous evaporation of water, and on the other hand - leaves are not moistened with water, and there is no danger of their rotting. Due to wax coating this plant can normally grow in dry air.
Peduncles of bromeliad-leaved ladies'-slipper are not protected by wax film, but it is not necessary for them: the peduncle sprouts at the basis of the old crown. In the beginning from under the crown thick stolon sprouts – it is the sprout with reduced leaves. Some time it grows aside, and then bends upwards and forms peduncle carrying one large flower.
The flower at bromeliad-leaved ladies'-slipper is pollinated by beetles. For these insects the plant prepares the special “entertainment” in the bottom petal (at orchids it is named “lip”) curved like bag. It is the fragrant sweetish liquid formed from nectar plentifully flowing down in petal, diluted with rain water. Trying to get it, insects fall in petal, and then start to search for an exit. Edges of lip are bent inside, forming “visor” above puddle of nectar, and it is possible to leave from this petal, only crawling near stigma and having received after that a lump of sticky pollen. Having sated and having taken “sweet bathing” in nectar, the beetle leaves flower and flies … to the following one, where all events repeat. The plant involves insects with contrast colouring of flower: on vine-red background of petals white spots reflecting ultra-violet light are scattered. The top petal (“sail”) is entirely red, but its edge is bordered by white strip. The lip is red - brown, but for insects there are special “signs” – edges of lip are covered with thin white strokes.
The adult plant forms up to 3 - 5 flowers at one crown. The flower keeps on peduncle rather long time: about 2 months, but not always on its place the fruit – narrow pod with microscopic seeds – is fastened.
After flowering on sarment in place of peduncle forming the new crown grows. But frequently sarments simply dry up after flowering.
The plant actively breeds by offsprings, but extremely slowly renews from seeds. The first year sprout exists due to grown in it mycelium and represents a tiny lump of cells. Only for the second year of life the sprout gives the first leaf, and begins blossoming only at eight-year age, and even later. But with the help of seeds the plant was settled at the most distant islands of Indian Ocean.
coconut (Cocos maritima)
Order: Arecales (Arecales)
Family: Palms (Arecaceae)
Habitat: Hawaii, other islands of Pacific Ocean, east of Indonesia, sea coasts.
In the antiquity, in human epoch “sea coconut” (“coco de of mar”) was the name of giant nuts of Seychelles coco palm (Lodoicea), which were rarely found on the coasts of Indian Ocean. Since no one saw a living palm of that species for a long time, a legend grew about it that it grows on the bottom of the ocean. Then the palm of this species was discovered, and the legend remained a legend.
But in Neocene this legend as if revived: one species of plants has practically “realized” it into life.
In Holocene coco palm was the most characteristic inhabitant of the coasts of tropical seas. Where its true native land was located is possible only to guess, since mankind had substantially enlarged its habitat, and it is difficult to say unambiguously, whether the coco palm grew on some of its territory initially, or was it the descendant of run wild plants initially planted by people. Seacoasts proved to be very convenient places to live: because of the salt contained in the oceanic water few plants capable of competing with the coco palm grew there. Because of its endurance this species successfully survived in ice age, although the area of its habitat was substantially reduced, and even broke into some isolated regions. Possible, on the atolls of Pacific Ocean, one of the populations of coco palm was forced to make a step towards the ocean. The island-building corals began to die out everywhere because of catastrophic change in the conditions of their habitat, and some islands were washed away by the ocean. In order to survive, the coco palms began to adapt to new conditions: they began to conquer the oceanic shallows. The plants at first simply “laid down” stem-first into water, and endured only short-term flooding. Then some of them began to develop a new adaptation: thick stilt roots upon which the trunk could remain on surface of water, and even above it. Gradually, the type of growth changed: the lower part of the stem began to die off, and the plant remained standing only on its supplementary stilt roots.
Gradually such palms, after “detaching” from the place where they grew, began “to crawl” farther into the sea, forming unique associations in the shallows. Thus the new species of the palms, the sea coconut evolved.
Sea coconut is characterized by one other special feature, untypical for the palms: this plant forms additional buds on the stem, from which new shoots germinate. This way one palm can form rather wast thickets, which successfully oppose the sea surf. The older the plant gets, the greater is the number of its crowns, and farther it penetrates into the sea.
Sea coconut preserved the recognizable appearance of the representatives of its genus. This palm has long (up to 4 - 5 meters and more) featherlike leaves. On the edges of leaves special salt-removing glands appeared, which release the surplus of salts, which penetrate into the plant via its roots. Thick brine excretes on tips of leaflets and dries out like semi-transparent clusters. When the wind swings the tree, the clusters of salt fall off from the leaves and simply fall into the water.
The flowers of sea coconut are small and are unprepossessing as in the other palms. The fruits have the characteristic “nut-like” appearance. They ripen in large clusters - by ten and more. The “nuts” of sea coconut are similar to ones of true coconuts, but are smaller (they are not larger than an apple in size), covered with durable shell with felt fibrous surface, which makes it possible for them to float longer over the surface of water. Sometimes the fruit even germinates, while floating in the sea and during the storm an already finished “seedling” of the palm is cast ashore. The young plant is very hardy: it can endure flooding by tidal waves. Some nuts, after being tangled in stilt roots of adult palms, germinate there, and develop normally, taking root on the sea floor, enduring the tides and strengthening by its growth the palm “groves” in the sea.
Sea coconut begins to blossom and to bear fruits approximately at the age of ten years, and it can live up to 200 years. Usually, the old palms perish during the storms and the tsunamis.
Translated by Bhut.
Mole flower (Talpanthus subterraneus)
Order: Arales (Arales)
Family: Arums (Araceae)
Habitat: forest areas of Europe.
Deciduous forests in areas of temperate and subtropical climate are a place where change of seasons causes significant distinctions in conditions of inhabiting of plants and animals. In summer tree leaves almost completely trap sunlight, and underbrush is very shady – only shade-enduring plants can grow there. An autumn the significant part of foliage falls down, and within approximately half-year light exposure of underbrush becomes much better. But winter colds interfere with growth of grassy plants, and therefore time of active vegetation of photophilous grasses lasts till some spring weeks. Representatives of this ecological group of plants are known as ephemers (annuals) and ephemeroids (perennial plants).
In spring there are few flowers in forest, and after wintering insects search for them actively. Any flower had appeared in the beginning of spring will be necessarily visited by insects. But frosts, which may kill flowers, prevent to plants to blossom too early. Nevertheless, one of plants of European forests has adapted to blossom early in spring.
When snow thaws and the top layer of ground gets warm a little, under the ground thick knobby rhizome awakes. From the last autumn on it large flower buds developed, and they waited for spring warming. When the ground gets warm enough, flower buds sprout. Their cover representing a modified leaf (spatha) punches a layer of ground and last year’s foliage, and grows on height of about 30 centimeters. Spatha is densely curtailed in tube which has yellowish-white color from outside. At top spatha opens, and its inner side – meaty-red with grayish spots – becomes visible. Spots are covered with hairs reflecting ultra-violet light, therefore, insects, not distinguishing red color at all, notice inner side of spatha, and move right to it. When spatha opens, the putrefactive smell is emitted in air, and beetles – the basic pollinators of this plant – willingly gather to it.
The most interesting feature of this plant is the position of its flowers below the ground level – hence this plant has got the name “mole flower”. Tiny and homely flowers of this species are gathered in spadix inflorescence, which has no flower-bearing stem and develops directly on rhizome. The spatha forms a tube through which insects reach the underground inflorescence, and hairs directed downwards keep insects near the inflorescence while pistillate flowers will lose a susceptibility to pollen. After fertilization the top part of spatha dies off, and the bottom part serves as protection of developing infructescence. The infructescence of mole flower ripens an autumn. It represents strongly grown up spadix with sweetish amylaceous pulp, in which seeds are immersed. The bottom part of spadix starts to grow actively, and the infructescence becomes taken out to the ground surface, where it is eaten by birds and mammals – seed carriers of mole flower.
In middle of spring, when flowering is finished, the mole flower takes out to the ground surface the large bud, in which some leaves curtailed together are contained. The leaf of mole flower has rounded outlines; it is large (its diameter is about 40 – 50 cm), deeply dissected to three, five or seven lobes. At young plants did not blossom yet, leaves are integral or triple, and at mature ones with good advanced rhizome they reach complete development. The surface of mole flower leaf is smooth and dark green with lighter nerves. Leaves die off in first half of summer. During the vegetation this plant has time to stock enough nutrients for formation of new flower buds and for ripening of infructescence.
The young plant of mole flower begins to blossom for the first time at the third year of life, and in northern parts of an area at the fourth, and even at the fifth year of life.
At the north of Europe and in the Alpes the close species of plants lives – serotinous mole flower (Talpanthus tardus). At this species flowering and fructification are separated by winter colds, and vegetation lasts during the whole summer. Feature of this species is the blossoming of serotinous mole flower at the beginning of an autumn. In winter this plant stays in rest condition, and the last year’s infructescence appears from under the ground in late spring. This species has large leaves of dark green color, only slightly cut on edges.
“River daisy” (Spongiolemna gigantissima)
Order: Arales (Arales)
Family: Duckweeds (Lemnaceae)
Habitat: subtropical and tropical areas of Far East and East Asia, Japan Islands.
Duckweeds are the most specialized and most strongly changed family of flowering plants. Their body has turned to frond – the original alloy of leaf and stalk. Some duckweed species may lack of roots. Flowers of duckweeds are reduced up to pestles and stamens covered with thin wrapper.
Despite of such deep degeneration of body, duckweeds are prospering group of plants. Due to high growth rate and ease of vegetative breeding duckweeds form continuous cover at the surface of reservoirs, and also are the important food resource for water animals.
In Holocene duckweeds were submitted by tiny plants, and to this family the smallest plant of the Earth belonged – Wolfiella of only about 0.5 mm long. In Neocene family is also submitted mainly by tiny plants poorly changed in comparison with human epoch. But among them some specialized forms had evolved, including one original giant. It is “river daisy”, the aquatic plant floating on a surface of the rivers and lakes of East Asia. At first sight “river daisy” can be confused with other plants – floating leaves of water lilies. But at close examination the difference becomes obvious. Rounded fronds of this species remotely similar to leaves of water lilies have diameter about 15 – 20 cm. Their edges are slightly cut up and wavy, blades are inflexed a little, and frond of plant resembles the stylized image of flower. Body of plant in the bottom part is spongy and has advanced aerenchyma. Because of numerous air bubbles it has silvery colouring. The top side of frond is dense and leathery, and has bright green color. One adult plant is able to grow on its edges some new fronds simultaneously. Buds, from which they form, develop on edges of frond blades. At the bright sunlight young fronds redden. At northern edge of an area in autumn the plant produces small turions similar to fronds of common duckweed species. They float at the surface of water and gather at the coast. In winter adult plants die off, and turions immerse to the bottom where winter successfully. Spring warming and amplification of light exposure stimulates their development.
Growth rate of this plant is very great. The development of one frond from occurrence up to reaching of full size takes about one week, and on one adult frond simultaneously up to seven fronds of new generation may develop. On the bottom side of frond “beard” of thin not branching roots reaching length of 10 cm grows. They actively absorb organic substances dissolved of water due to what this plant effectively clears water.
This plant is dioecious. Male plants differ in smaller size, but breed vegetative more intensively, and the biomass of male and female individuals in population is approximately identical. Flowers of “river daisy” are reduced, as at all duckweeds, but differ in special structure. Pestles and stamens at them are very long and strong; they are covered at the basis with small spatha leaflet, which dries up soon. Flowers develop between blades of frond. “River daisy” is an entomophilous plant, but its relations with insects are considerably simpler, than at orchids, for example. Damselflies like to sit on pestles and stamens sticking up above thickets of “river daisy” for rest. They carry sticky pollen of this plant on legs. Seeds of “river daisy” are tiny, covered with sticky slime. They float on water surface for a long time, and stick to feathers or wool of water tetrapods, which settle this plant.
The idea about the opportunity of evolving of such plants is proposed by Nem, the forum member.
Two-shaped tongue fern (Epiphyllitis heteromorphus)
Order: Cyatheales (Cyatheales)
Family: Aspleniaceae (Aspleniaceae)
Habitat: warm and humid forests along the western and southern coasts of Fourseas.
Climate warming has resulted in formation at the south of Europe of deciduous forests having separate features characteristic for tropical forest. But the area of these forests is very limited – the Mediterranean clutched between Europe and Africa had turned to salt desert, and the water comes to these forests only from Fourseas – huge brackish sea-like lake at the southeast of Europe. Warm- and moistureloving forests cover its southern and western coasts. The plants making these forests are descendants of local European plants – mountains and Mediterranean lowlands reliably isolated them from “true” tropical forests. Besides the features of the trees forming these forests, the presence of epiphytes, characteristic life forms, gives them tropical appearance. In European forests of tropical type mosses and ferns are epiphytes.
One of epiphytic ferns of these places is two-shaped tongue fern, the descendant of common European hart’s tongue fern (Phyllitis scolopendrium) of Holocene epoch. This species grows in forks of branches, where the needed amount of vegetative material for germination of its spores accumulates.
Similarly to the ancestor, this species is crown plant forming dense funnel of fronds. At this species two types of fronds develop – sterile and fertile (hence the specific epithet). Sterile bottom fronds are rounded, wide and leathery. In them vegetative dust, bird dung and other substances accumulate, and the plant receives nutrients from them. The additional roots developing on short stalk of plant penetrate there. Being young, sterile fronds take part in photosynthesis for some time, but as they develop, the amount of chlorophyll in them reduces and suber tissues develop. These fronds turn rigid, and only at their edges the area of growing tissue stays. The similar type of fronds develops at staghorn fern (Platycerium), which has successfully survived up to Neocene epoch and lives in South-East Asia and Meganesia.
Top fronds of two-shaped tongue fern are softer. They photosynthesize and on their bottom side along lateral nerves, at an angle to central nerve, sporangiums gathered to linear soruses develop. This species has lengthened, non-divided and dense fronds – this feature is inherited by it from the ancestor. Fertile fronds of this fern have slightly wavy edges and rather soft tissue. At short-term winter cold snaps they may die off. But up to this time the plant forms in the center of the crown some young fronds, which do not unwrap in winter and cover a vulnerable apex. They produce slime rich in polysaccarides, which protects apical tissues of damage by cold. In spring, when it becomes warm enough, they open, and new fertile fronds grow very quickly. Completely advanced plant forms the crown about 50 – 60 cm in diameter.
Two-shaped tongue fern strongly attaches against bark of trees by roots easily growing into roughnesses of bark and penetrating deeper while its grows thick. At the old part of rhizome new sprouts grow, and one plant can form thickets of several large crowns.
This plant breeds by spores easily carrying by wind and by insects. But two-shaped tongue fern has one more way of breeding. Fertile fronds easily form brooding buds being damaged. Usually the bud is quickly forming at the place of break of nerves, and the broken off piece of fertile frond also may produce at least one bud, from which the young plant successfully develops.
Epiphytic horsetail (Equisetum dendrophilus)
Order: Equisetales (Equisetales)
Family: Horsetails (Equisetaceae)
Habitat: forests of Balkan and South Europe.
The climate of Neocene differs in heat and humidity. It has resulted in expansion of tropical and subtropical zones and shifting of borders of heat-loving vegetative communities areas to higher latitudes. In Europe heat-loving forests had appeared in southern part, in Alps foothills, at the Balkan and in Asia Minor. To the south, behind the Alps, the hollow is spread being earlier the bottom of Mediterranean Sea. This is a place where salt swamps and rigorous saline deserts dominate. To the south of Mediterranean Lowland savannas of North Africa cut by huge river named Sahara Nile spread. Extensive plains appeared an absolute obstacle for heat-loving vegetation of Africa, and mountains have prevented penetration into Europe of Asian heat-loving plants. Therefore subtropical woods of Europe are formed by descendants of local plants evolved in favorable conditions: the huge sea-sized lake Fourseas provides these forests with moisture.
In multilevel forests of south-east of Europe the set of opportunities for evolution had appeared. Huge trees are twined with lianas and on branches epiphytes live as in true tropical forest. Basically they are various ferns – from tiny and delicate up to huge ones with skinny leaves. But among their leaves (fronds) of various shape long and similar to brushes sprouts of other sporous plant, epiphytic horsetail, the endemic of the south of Europe, are visible.
It is easier to sporiparous plant to occupy a niche of epiphyte, rather than to flowering one – spores are easily carrying by wind (orchids growing often as epiphytes have microscopic seeds with reduced germ). But sporous plants have one vulnerable feature: from the spore not a sprout of adult plant, but prothallus, the sexual generation develops. On it feminine and masculine genitals, archegones and antheridiums develop. And drops of water are necessary for fertilization and development of adult plant (sporophyte). Therefore sporous plants have reached especial success in woods with high air humidity.
In early Neocene seas of south-east of Europe had returned to their coasts after drying up ice age, and later had merged to Fourseas. It had favorably resulted in climate of Balkan – the climate became more humid and rainy. The ancestor of epiphytic horsetail, obviously, settled in these conditions in moss cover, and then became climbing plant. Gradually descendants of this species began to pass a complete cycle of development in tree crones. The Neocenic epiphytic horsetail had appeared so.
The epiphytic horsetail represents rhizomatous grassy plant. Its rhizomes creep on trunk upwards and downwards, hiding from sunlght in cracks of bark. Covers of rhizomes are thick and spongy – it is a reliable protection against excessive evaporation of water.
Stalks of epiphytic horsetail are thin and low – not higher than 20 cm. But this plant forms rich cushion thickets of bright green color. As all species of horsetails, this plant is lack of leaves, but lateral branches located in nods of stalk by verticils of ten ones and more. The bottom nods of stalks are located closer to each other and lateral branches are denser here, rather than on tops of sprouts – this way inside thickets in growth zone of rhizome and young sprouts the optimum microclimate is kept.
Rhizomes of epiphytic horsetail have two types. The basic rhizome is rather short, with internodes pulled together. From it vegetative photosynthesizing sprouts grow. From the basic rhizome keeping the certain distance lateral rhizomes of the second type grow. These rhizomes are very thin and have long internodes, reduced roots and vegetative sprouts. They creep on trunk, and sometimes freely hang down from branches. Wind shakes such rhizome and throws it to the next tree. There it is fixed, quickly forming roots clinging to the tree bark, and starts to grow, forming characteristic green “bottle brushes”. This plant is settled so.
Sporiferous sprouts of this plant strongly differ from vegetative ones – they are long (reaching one-and-a-half-meter length), without lateral branches, with narrow and long strobil on the end. Such sprouts develop in the beginning of summer. The stalk of sporiferous sprout is elastic; therefore sprout is arcuated and hangs, being shaken in the wind. The plant simply uses one behavioural feature of flies – these insects like to perch on hanging down thin objects. Not only wind, but also insects carry spores of epiphytic horsetail. Spores with outgrowths (elaters) cling to legs of flies and are delivered by insects to places where the wind could not bring spores. This habit of spores carrying gives appreciable advantage in settling to the epiphytic horsetail.
In the best way the spores had got in damp places (for example, on the friable bark of tree holding moisture) develop. From spore small prothallus similar to hat with cut up edges grows. On its convex middle part the masculine genitals (antheridiums) are located, and edge lobes female archegones are. Fertilization is promoted by the form of prothallus: the dew drop gathers on antheridiums, spermatozoids get in it, and then the drop simply rolls down to archegones. Sometimes from connected spores some prothalluses growing near each other are formed. Even the cross fertilization giving more viable plant is possible in this case.
Young plant at the first years of life forms only sterile sprouts and does not give long rhizomes with which help it is settled. Approximately at the fourth year of life at it first sporiferous sprouts are formed and got stronger plant at the age of about eight years starts to settle with the help of rhizomes. It forms set of clone thickets stretching to tens meters in forest canopy.
The close species, hanging wood horsetail (Equisetum pendulus) as if keeps features of the previous stage of development of epiphytic horsetails. This species grows on bark and keeps against it by roots sprouting deeper in process of its thickness increase. Vegetative sprouts of this plant freely hang down, reaching the length of meter and more. Their lateral branches are thin and long, therefore this horsetail looks fluffier. Strobils are formed on ends of sprouts which are not distinguished externally from vegetative ones. Strobil of hanging horsetail is long, and spores of this species are also carried not only by wind, but also by flies.
Predatory water mold (Xenosaprolegnia carnivora)
Order: Saprolegniales (Saprolegniales)
Family: Saprolegniaceae (Saprolegniaceae)
Habitat: freshwater reservoirs of temperate, subtropical and tropical latitudes of Old and New World, Meganesia.
Among mushrooms there is a big group which representatives live exclusively in water. These ones are primitive oomycetes fungi which because of their appearance had received the common name “water mold”. Mycelium of these fungi forms cotton wool-like white cover on rotten substrata of animal origin. Frequently oomycetes develop on open wounds of fishes, corroding their tissues up to bones (fungus Saprolegnia leads such way of life).
One of Neocene species of oomycetes had passed to more effective way of feeding – it had turned to passive predator. Predatory species usually meet among soil fungi. They form sticky heads and trapping loops, in which microscopic invertebrates get. Predatory water mold catches prey exclusively with the help of glue. This fungus forms special plentifully branching hyphae. Cells forming these hyphae have elastic walls and can stretch strongly. On tips of such hyphae traps form – they look as wide sticky heads. Each head represents a drop of glue of gel-like consistence, “stretched” on brush-like branching terminal cells of hypha.
This oomycete develops exclusively due to live organisms caught by it. Predatory water mold forms sticky locks about 10 cm long in still places of ponds and rivers, among vegetation. With the help of sticky heads this fungus catches tiny organisms like protozoans, rotifers and other worms. When small animal is pasted to trapping head of fungus, substances from covers of its body diffuse into slime. Their occurrence serves as stimulus for growth of cells on which the drop of glue is stretched. If caught animal starts to try to escape, fungus hyphae do not come unstuck from its body due to the extensibility of cellular walls. Moreover, returning to initial position, hyphae of fungus draw caught prey back, and it may casually paste to some other sticky heads. The cells forming trapping head, reach a surface of prey body in some minutes. They start to emit the enzymes destroying cell environments of prey, and sprout in its body similarly to roots, dissolving and absorbing substances of prey body. In some hours no rests remain from soft-bodied, and from small larvae of crustaceans and insects only chitinous armours keep. Large colonies of predatory water mold represent real danger to tadpoles, fry of small fishes and larvae of shrimps. But this fungus itself serves as food to some water animals – to adult crustaceans and molluscs. It is eaten also by some fishes and ducks.
Spores of predatory water mold are covered with protective mucous membrane, and are easily carrying to other reservoirs on legs of waterfowl. It explains practically global settling of this fungus, which is settled with the help of migrating birds. Besides populations of this fungus are rather homogeneous genetically, and it does not have any geographical variations.
In the field of an area with seasonal climate the mycelium of predatory water mould, as a rule, dies off at formation of ice on surface of water, and survives in winter as spores. In areas where the temperature of water does not fall below +4 ?С, predatory water mould successfully winters as a mycelium. Spores of this fungus sprout on the organic substratum of animal origin - usually on body of dead small animal, on the rests of prey of any predator, or on shells of eggs of fishes or amphibians. Proteins of substratum serve for initial development of small lock of mycelium with several trapping heads. The further development depends on success of hunting of this fungus.
“Cadaver flower” (Cadaveroflos dimorphus)
Order: Hypocreales (Hypocreales)
Family: Ergot fungi (Clavicipitaceae)
Habitat: tropics of Old World – Central Africa, Zinj Land, Southern and Southeast Asia.
Evolution of fungi is, probably, not as appreciable, as evolution of animals and plants. However, fungi are the major participants of processes of decomposition. Among them there are also numerous symbiotes and parasites of plants and animals, and some fungi have adapted to lead predatory way of life. Basically these are microscopic ground fungi which catch various microscopic worms and other invertebrates by loops and gyphae nets. However, among predating fungi there are also larger species.
The territory of tropical rainforests of Old World is inhabited by large carrion-eating dipteran species, infectiofly (Dolichomusca infectans). It searches for carrion, using the keen sense of smell, and lays larvae in it. Though this insect has fine sight sense, in searches of carrion it is guided only by sense of smell, and it is actually indifferent for it, how the substratum having a “correct” smell looks.
This feature of behaviour of insect is used by some species of fungi which breed and live due to scavenging insects. One of these fungi is freakish “cadaver flower”. It is a fungus rather precisely imitating carrion for attraction of insects eating it, including infectiofly. Life cycle of “cadaver flower” includes two phases of development. Imitation of carrion takes place at “vegetative” stage of life cycle. From spore of fungus the mycelium grows, which develops in vegetative rests – it is a rarity in the order to which mainly parasitic species belong. Developing mycelium forms without fertilization a kind of “false fruiting body”, laying directly on substratum – it is a product of evolution of sclerotium, which now represents original “vegetative” generation in life cycle of the fungus. This formation is vaguely similar to a flower with the irregular-shaped petals, laying directly on the surface of substratum. Edges of this formation are slightly raised above a substratum. Actually, “false fruiting body” represents an apothecium characteristic for ascomycetes. This formation is two-layer. Its surface inverted to substratum is grey and leathery, and its middle is penetrated with numerous strings of mycelium directed into substratum. The surface inverted upwards has jelly-like consistence, is colored reddish-pink and has an expressed smell of decomposed meat. Spore-bearing sacs do not develop in it, but the jelly-like mass is plentifully penetrated with threads of mycelium. The insects involved with smell of carrion, gather on “cadaver flower” in thousands. They creep on jelly-like mass, taste it and even leave on it larvae –this fungus imitates a smell of decomposed meat so precisely. But then they fly out, carrying away on legs a part of mycelium. And then, of course, having bad memory, insects catch in the same trap again, visiting other specimens of “cadaver flower”.
As a result of flights from one fungus to another on legs of insects in the rests of jelly-like mass parts of mycelium of genetically different specimens of fungus. It is a stimulus for the further development of “cadaver flower” and its passing to the second, sexual phase of development. Conjugating mycelium of different individuals starts forming of fruiting body. Hyphae of fruiting body penetrate into cuticle on leg segments of insect and gradually penetrate its body entirely. The fungus infects an insect, develops in its body and within several hours simply kills its prey. Then fungus starts to develop as saprotroph, and the body of dead insect serves as a substratum for initial stages of development. Spore-bearing stage of fungus considerably differs in shape from “false fruiting body”. From stigmas, mouth and anus of dead insect true fruiting bodies emerge, rise on thin stipes and produce spores. They represent bell-like conic heads 2 - 3 mm in diameter and up to 5 mm in height on very long stipes. The basis of stipe is dense, but the top part, right under the head, is very flexible. At the slightest breeze from the shaken head threadlike spores laying in sacs among friable mass of mycelium strings are thrown out. On suitable substratum from them the mycelium develops, forming “false fruiting body”, imitating carrion.
The idea about existence of this species of fungi was proposed by Arthropod, the forum member.
“Forest goblet” (Eupelicomyces multicapitatus)
Order: Pezizales (Pezizales)
Family: Pezizaceae (Pezizaceae)
Habitat: Chile, humid Nothofagus forests.
Moderate – cold areas of Southern hemisphere in Neocene had kept approximately the same area, as in human epoch. Though South America had moved a little aside the South Pole, climate warming in Neocene has caused displacement of border of warm-moderate climatic zone to poles. Therefore the climate more-less similar to climate of the most part of Eurasia, in Southern hemisphere was generated only at the far south of South America. But also here it undergoes great influence from the part of ocean. Therefore moderately cold snow winter is characteristic for this area. Summer at the far south of South America is humid, about rather small amount of dry and hot days. Such weather is favorable for growth of various mushrooms.
Forests at the south of South America are formed by various species of southern beech (Nothofagus) – the kind of plants growing in temperate areas of Southern hemisphere from Mesozoic. Forests of this plant form a habitat for plenty of mushroom kinds. Also it is very remarkable, that right here instead of rich in life forests of Amazonia, the largest mushroom of South America, “forest goblet”, grows.
The body of mushroom consists of false tissue – plectenchyma, which represents a texture of mycelium fibers. It is lack of strenghtening tissue, therefore it is absolutely not feasible for a mushroom problem to grow up to the size of tree. “Forest goblet” exists in fact at the edge of mechanical opportunities of plectenchyma. It is the huge mushroom reaching one meter height. High humidity of air favours to growth of its huge fruit body. The fruit body of “forest goblet” represents huge ramified apothecium of yellow color with brownish shade. Edges of “pileus” have darker color – they are orange-brown. A consistence of fruit body is elastic, and the bottom part of stem of mushroom is gristly. Its “pileus” has strongly concave form, and after morning fog a lot of water accumulates in it. Streaming down along internal surface of apothecium, water washes off spores of mushroom. Inside the mushroom small birds frequently arrange original “swimming baths” for themselves, after which they carry spores of mushroom on their plumage. In middle part the stem of fruit body branches and forms some small cup-like slightly irregular-shaped pilei. If branching of stem takes place higher, instead of one “pileus” of rounded outlines “Siamese twins” – two, three and even more “pilei” grown together are formed. “Forest goblet” is not poisonous, but has bitter taste protecting this mushroom from rodents and birds.
There is one more secret of large size of “forest goblet” – this mushroom forms mycorhiza with southern beech, receiving from it some of organic substances instead of mineral substances. The mycelium of “forest goblet” actively participates in decomposition of wood litter, and its fruit bodies are formed, when in forest its greatest amount gathers – closer to middle dawn (in Southern hemisphere approximately in the beginning of April). “Forest goblet” forms mycorhiza with large species of Nothofagus forming a basis of forests of temperate zone of Southern hemisphere.
The close species also lives in forests: crested mushroom (Eupelicomyces cristatus). It is a mushroom of considerably smaller size, than “forest goblet”: the maximal height of fruit body is no larger than 15 centimeters. But its fruit bodies reach the significant size, because “pilei” of this mushroom are not rounded, but merged to longitudinal crests. The length of such fruit body may reach 30 centimeters. At the fruit body of crested mushroom some crests with spore-producing surface develop. Their edges are dissected to rounded lobes of reddish-brown color with bright orange edges. This species does not form mycorhiza and lives as saprophyte. Its fruit body emits the unpleasant smell involving insects, and more often spores of this mushroom are distributed by beetles. Fruit bodies of crested mushroom appear in forest at the end of summer and an early autumn.
Spring ice mushroom (Cryomorchella vernalis)
Order: Pezizales (Pezizales)
Family: Morels (Morchellaceae)
Habitat: steppes of Three-Rivers-Land, Southern Ural, steppes of Southern Siberia.
Picture by Alexander Smyslov
(background: herd of porcippulas)
Mushrooms are very important component of ecosystems. These
organisms occupy prevailing position among saprotrophs, and due to their vital
activity processes of decomposition of dead organic substances proceeds much
In steppes of Three-Rivers-Land each summer grass plentifully grows on. Herds of herbivorous mammals feed on it, but they succeed to eat not all growth of graminoids. When winter begins, rains and small layer of snow force the withered grass to the ground, and it starts to decompose. In early spring on slopes of hills warmed up by sun among yellowish-brown last year's grass mushrooms of white color appear. It is a species of mushrooms which plays a determining role in process of decomposition of vegetative rests in steppes of Eurasia with seasonal climate and cold winter. For the cold endurance and time of active growth it is named as spring ice mushroom.
This ascomycete has rather low competitiveness, and can be considered as original analogue of ephemeral plants among mushrooms. Its fruit bodies cannot be met in summer when in steppe other species of mushrooms grow. Their mycelium strongly suppresses growth of mycelium of spring ice mushroom, and this species as if vanishes from steppe to the most part of year. Within several months, since late spring up to middle of an autumn, spring ice mushroom is kept only as resting spores in ground.
When autumn and winter colds begin, the majority of mushrooms stop growing, and their mycelium develops much slower. Colds serve as stimulus for sprouting of spores of spring ice mushroom – its spores develop, when the day time temperature falls up to +5°С, and there are frosts at night. From late autumn till early spring the mycelium of this species develops on rests of last year's grass. In some places the mycelium of spring ice mushroom forms extended textures under layer of rotten grass. When the top layer of ground freezes through, growth of mycelium stops, but after the first days of thawing weather it renews.
In the beginning of spring, when the sun warms up the top layer of ground enough, spring ice mushroom for a short time turns to sun-worshipper. From under layer of last year's grass its fruit bodies appear plentifully. They may be so numerous, that some slopes from apart seem strewn with snow. The fruit body of spring ice mushroom is separated to small wrinkled pileus similar to dried up apple about 2 – 3 cm in diameter, and thin stem up to 15 cm high. These mushrooms grow very quickly, and the fruit body develops completely during approximately 3 – 4 days. Despite of fragile appearance, this mushroom has excellent vitality. It endures frosts and a snowfall which frequently come back in spring.
Spores of spring ice mushroom develop on the surface of its pileus, in thin layer of slime. The main carriers of spores of spring ice mushroom are steppe herbivorous mammals – porcippulas, harelopes and other animals. After winter food shortage herbivores willingly bite off pileuses of this mushroom, despite of its bitterish taste, and carry spores of mushroom with their manure. The cover of spores of spring ice mushroom is rather strong, and it is not damaging staying in gastroenteric path neither of mammals, nor of grubs of dung beetles.
fungus (Carnoelatera sphinga)
Order: Flesh-eating fungi (Carnomycetes)
Family: Sponge carnivorous fungi (Carnomycospongidae)
Habitat: forests of central Europe.
In the human era carnivorous fungi eating microscopic invertebrates were known. In Neocene among ascomycetes the new promising group appeared – carnomycetes, predatory macromycetes. Their trapping bodies (pseudosporocarps, false fruiting bodies) have various shapes depending on their methods of catching of their prey – usually small invertebrates. Unlike plants, the body of the fungus is represented by false tissue – plectenchyma representing a plexus of hyphae. Due to a lack of vessel elements the types of traps used by plants are inaccessible to these fungi, so they develop other types of traps to keep their prey.
One group of these fungi forms pseudosporocarps shaped like spirals which are able to curl during the swelling of cells, forming their hyphae. This species is the spring-coiled fungus, living among mosses and lichens on trees in the forests of Central Europe. This fungus looks very peculiar: from moss thickets thin spiraling pseudosporocarps of white color up to 20-30 cm hang downward. In a group there are up to 40-50 pseudosporocarps forming a “beard”, which occupies a part of the branch about 20 cm long. Young and weak individuals of the fungus form groups of 4-5 pseudosporocarps.
The surface of the pseudosporocarps oozes drops of sweetish sticky liquid that attracts small insect into the coils. When an insect is among the coils of a spiral, the pseudosporocarp responds to mechanical and chemical stimulation: at the stimulated site the turgor of its cells increases, and the spiral curls tightly, preventing its prey to escape. One pseudosporocarp can hold up to 3 small insects. The prey is rapidly dissolved, and then the destroying of the pseudosporocarp takes place – it turns into a long slimy thread and dies off.
The fruiting body of the spring-coiled fungus is an apothecium of white color with deeply dissected edges, about 2 cm in diameter. It rises above the thicket of moss on a long stalk and sways in the wind, attracting flies that carry the spores of this species.
Translated by FanboyPhilosopher.
“Forest lantern” (Mycolanterna extralucens)
Order: Gilled mushrooms (Agaricales)
Family: Pale-spore mushrooms (Tricholomataceae)
Habitat: rainforests of northern part of Meganesia.
Among factors of natural selection for any kind of live organisms there is the mode of its interaction with environmental species of live organisms. This factor becomes especially important, and even determining, when the connection, taking place between two species, becomes stronger, and dependence on it from the part of one or both species increases. Dependence on other species becomes determining at parasites for which the host species becomes an inhabitancy.
Coevolution results in evolving of species adapted to coexistence with one or several species of live organisms. One example of this phenomenon is shown by mushroom living in rainforests of Meganesia. It has ability to glow very brightly, and it is directly connected with mode of its relations with some species of animals living near to it. It is small pileate basidium mushroom, which is a symbiote of lamplighter bird and lantern ant. The bright luminescence had determined the name of mushroom – “forest lantern”. At night under rainforest canopy congestions of these mushrooms are well appreciable from apart.
“Forest lantern” grows on rotten wood. It plentifully expands on heaps of pieces of rotten wood gathered by lamplighter bird specially for this purpose, and without care from the part of this bird it lives on moldering tree trunks. But “wild” populations of mushroom grow less intensively, than ones the lamplighter bird looks after. It is explaining by following reason: on heaps of lamplighter bird mushroom has another ally – lantern ant. It also settles in heaps of pieces of rotten wood gathered by lamplighter bird, and eats not only insects, but also mycelium of various species of mushrooms. Its saliva contains substances which stimulate growth of mycelium of “forest lantern”. In places of ant stings the mycelium of “forest lantern” forms original inflows which are eaten willingly by lantern ants. Activity of ants selectively exterminates the species of mushrooms competing with “forest lantern” for nutrients. Without care the mycelium of “forest lantern” quickly reaches physiological maturity, but exists not for long, and within two years completely degrades and is superseded by other species of wood-attacking mushrooms. On heaps of lamplighter bird at care of lantern ant this mushroom exists much longer, and forms a plenty of fruit bodies. These mushrooms are not poisonous for terrestrial vertebrates, and they are eaten occasionally by large forest birds and marsupial mammals.
Fruit bodies of “forest lantern” form congestions up to 20 cm in diameter, weighting about 400 grams. The luminescence is by-product of life processes of mushroom, but in process of coevolution just this property had determined success in existence of this species of mushrooms. Lamplighter birds till the centuries searched in forest of pileuses of most brightly glowing specimens of “forest lantern”, and brought them to their constructions. As a result of such selection from the part of birds “forest lantern” glows much brighter, than species from close genera. The fruit body of “forest lantern” has conic pileus on long stem. Hymenium of this mushroom is lamellar, and edges of lamellas glow especially bright. The mushroom emits greenish-white light which shade varies at different populations. Light of single mushroom seems not too bright, but “forest lantern” forms the close joints numbering up to 2 – 3 tens of fruit bodies. Light emitting by thickets of “forest lantern”, would allow human eye to notice a small insect at the distance of about 40 cm from joint of mushrooms at moonless night.
“Forest lantern” grows quickly – the completely developed fruit body forms within three days and is kept about one week. Dying off fruit bodies cease glowing, and lamplighter bird, as a rule, carries them off from its “mushroom bed”.
Octopus fungus, “dead man’s hand” (Necrochiromyces palpatus)
Order: Phallales (Phallales)
Family: Stinkhorn mushrooms (Phallaceae)
Habitat: semidesertic areas of Mediterranean lowland.
Picture by Mex
Fungi live in all areas of the Earth, from tropical forests up to deserts
and edges of glaciers. Their evolution passes very quickly, and newly formed
at once appear populated with various species of fungi. One of the most rigorous
places on the Earth is Mediterranean lowland representing hollow, which bottom
is covered with thick layer of salts remained after drying of Mediterranean
Sea. Here only hardiest species of live organisms can exist. On salt-covered
plain mountains, once former islands of Mediterranean rise and edges of the
lowland represent semidesert. Here life is considerably more diverse. At
the edges of Mediterranean lowland one unusual species of gasteromycete
For the shape it got the name “octopus mushroom” or “dead man’s hand”.
The fruiting body of this mushroom represents irregular-shaped formation with several finger-like outgrowths. The fruiting body is formed in places where the moisture is kept for longer time – usually in channels of drying up rivers or at the coast of temporary reservoirs. In the beginning of development the fruiting body has egg-like shape – it is covered with a leathery environment of brownish color. In due course of growth the fruiting body swells and breaks a crust of dried up ground. On the ground surface the environment is broken off to several rags, releasing the actual fruiting body. At the first hours of the development it is similar to the fist, but in due course of growth finger-shaped shoots start to get smoothed out and straighten. They have pinkish-white color and friable internal part. On the surface of fruiting body slime is plentifully secreting. Basidia cover an external surface of fruiting body and the generated spores appear in layer of slime. Growth of fruiting body begins in the evening and proceeds during all night. In second half of night the height of fruiting body of octopus mushroom reaches about 20 cm at thickness of about 8 – 9 cm. Warmth is the determining factor for development of this species – at the northern border of an area, in the Alpes, fruiting bodies of octopus mushroom are much smaller despite of abundance of organic substances in the ground.
Many mushrooms use services of the most widespread and undemanding insects – flies and beetles – for spore carrying. Their fruiting bodies smell very unpleasantly, involving spore distributors. Slime of octopus mushroom also has strong smell – spicy with putrefactive nuance. Such smell involves beetles which are the basic distributors of spores of this mushroom. The mycelium of octopus mushroom develops in places where in the ground there is at least a small amount of moisture and organic substances. More often fruiting bodies of this mushroom appear at the end of winter and in spring. In summer, when the ground dries up, they can be found only in places where there are shadow and moisture at once – near to large plants, in places protected from the heat of sun.
In the morning the fruiting body quickly loses elasticity and wilts. Finger-shaped shoots fade and lay in various sides around the basis of fruiting body. Slime stiffens as a thin pellicle through which evaporation of water proceeds. The fruiting body quickly shrinks and gets viscous consistence. However, spores of octopus mushroom keep viability even in this case. One more distributor of spores of this species is whistlehorn (Stridocornis etrurius) – desert artiodactyl similar to gazelles. These mammals willingly search for fruiting bodies of octopus mushroom and chew them. The substances contained in fruiting bodies of this mushroom, have slight intoxicating effect on them – adult animals do not lose coordination of movements and speed of run, but behave less cautiously and in absence of danger frequently play like calves. Manure of whistlehorns serves as a good substratum for development of mycelium of octopus mushroom.
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