Field of Science

Geeky primitive flowering vine

Who doesn't like big showy flowers, but small strange flowers are really cool to especially to us botanical geeks. As a result the Phactor tends to grow some less common plants for his own amusement. Here's a close up of a small (~1 cm diam) flowered vine that occupies a couple of stories of an old TV antenna at the corner of our house. You many notice several unusual things about this flower: one - the perianth consists of a helical whorl of 8-9 parts that start smaller and greener on the outside and turn whiter (and a bit pink on the inside base) as they spiral inward. The plant is monoecious and this flower only has 5-6 stamens, spirally arranged, and where the anther is rather broad and there is no filament to speak of. Higher up on the vine other flowers will look identical but with ~24 spirally arranged individual pistils. Most people don't know this genus, or its family, or its unique place in flowering plant phylogeny. The vine is Kadsura chinensis (Schisandra family - Schisandraceae) and it now resides phylogentically among one of the basal grades of flowering plants indicating an ancient common ancestry with all the rest. Sometimes this species is called magnolia vine, but it doesn't remind me of magnolias very much.

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