Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - King's Mantle

Today seems like the first of winter; up to now it's definitely been fall. So nothing else to do but go on safari to our glasshouse for a dose of tropics. While you typically think of tropical plants as day neutral with regards to flowering, many tropical plants respond to the shorter days (actually the longer nights) by flowering. In the deep recesses of hard to reach plants (You have no idea what it took to get this image!), the king's mantle (Thunbergia erecta) was in flower with its really large snapdragony flowers (actually a member of Acanthaceae). Most members of this genus, named after Carl Peter Thunberg, a student, or rather apostle, of Linnaeus', are vines or viney shrubs, this Asian species being more the latter. The Phactor has featured this genus before, but not this species. Most flowers with this general form and size (4+ cm across) are pollinated by largish bodied bees big enough and strong enough to crawl into the somewhat flattened floral tube pushing it open to contact the stigma and/or anthers with their hairy thorax.

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