Field of Science

Magnolia vine

One of the stranger plants in our gardens is the magnolia vine (also called the 5-flavored fruit vine)(Schisandra chinensis)(Schisandraceae). As readers well know, TPP has a thing for magnolias, and anything with that name included. As many readers will not know the flowering plants have three basal lineages referred to as the ANA lineages. The first A is for Amborella, a genus that is native to New Caledonia only, a bit of old Gondwana.  N is for Nymphyaeales, the waterlilies and their close relatives. The 2nd A is for the Austrobaileyales, which includes the magnolia vine. These lineages have ancient common ancestries with the rest of flowering plants. So when you have taught plant diversity and plant taxonomy for so long, you like having these specimens around. A second, and more mundane reason is that at the corner of our house is an old, but very sturdy TV antenna tower from the pre-cable days.  It has two current functions: one, it's an emergency escape ladder from a bedroom's balcony, and two, it serves as a trellis for the magnolia vine where it regularly climbs well above the roof line. At any rate it flowers in the spring although the flowers are not very large (about 1 cm across) or very colorful (sort of light greenish to cream colored).  But the floral parts are spirally arranged rather than in whorls. While supposedly dioecious, our vine is monoecious probably selected for producing fruit with only one vine. The flowers are "unisexual", either having pistils or anthers. The image shows one flower of each "sex" (the pistils are green). Eventually, the pistils will ripen to red fruitlets (very tart) and if like members of the rose family, the fruit would look rather like a raspberry, but the post-pollination elongation of the receptacle spatially separates the fruitlets so that they look like individual fruits on a flowering stalk, a feature that may be present in some of the earliest fossil flowers.

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