Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - Mimiature "holly"

Not too many people notice these little pink flowers on a little shrub in our glasshouse. Most people think it's some kind of miniature holly because of its leathery leaves with spiny margins, and that's what Malpighia coccigera is called some times.  This species is a close relative of the Barbados cherry (M. glabra). The fruit of both species is a bright red berry/drupe, but the former's fruit is pretty small. It's sort of unusual to see petals on stalks, but the sepals peeking through each have a pair of glands.   Sometimes this shrub is grown as an ornamental, and for many years TPP had one as a bonsai tree that required constant pruning (a total pain because it's a stubborn plant).  Nonetheless it's charming in flower especially when seen close up.  The name is interesting because it's an honorific for Marcello Malpighi, a professor at Bologna during in mid1600s. Here's his  Wikipedia entry: Malpighi gave his name to several physiological features related to the biological excretory system such as the Malpighian corpuscles and Malpighian pyramids of the kidneys and the Malpighian tubules of insects. Well, that is just an outrage!  Marcello was one of the father's of plant anatomy, and not a mention of that or the plant genus named after him!  This is the usual human-biomedical bias about what's important in biology!  What would you rather have named after you?  Some part of the excretory system or a really attractive flower?  

3 comments:

William Connolley said...

Where's the picture?

The Phytophactor said...

Sorry about the picture no being posted at first; must have hit the wrong button. And now I notice an obnoxious redirect highlighted in the blog. Grrr!

JaneB said...

Sounds like someone needs to get editing that Wikipedia entry...