Field of Science

Rattan palms

Has the Phactor ever told you about rattan palms? Probably not because they bring such painful memories to mind. Rattan palms are scandent vines which means that they climb by sort of draping themselves over other plants; they don't twine. The pain comes from the extremely spiny stems (actually spiny leaf bases sheathing the stem) and the modified inflorescences, long, thin whips constituted out of piano wire, armed with recurved fish hooks along its length (visible in the upper right of this image), a perfect structure for garroting unsuspecting botanists in the dim understory of rain forests. To move through some of my study sites required you to have a pair of pruning shears in hand constantly to clip yourself free of these restraints. Still you and your clothes got shreaded. The palms climb by grappling tree bark or other structures and the weight of the palm sets the hooks. These memories were awakened by a request to review a manuscript on the reproduction of rattan palms. So the Phactor is quite sympathetic about what the authors put up with to conduct their research. Such nostagia erupts about rattans when ever the Phactor happens to sit upon someone's patio furniture made from rattan palm stems.

1 comment:

Carol Steel said...

Owww! Rattan chairs are hugely uncomfortable, now I know why! They're made from rather nasty stuff.