Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - almost

The middle of August is not the best time to visit our glasshouse because it's always hot and humid in there. But some plants like it that way. Our collection of cycads is decent and some are quite old, and since they grow so slowly some do not appear to have changed much over the past 4 decades. Here's a nasty one, Encephalartos ferox, the spines on the leaves are quite vicious; E. horridus is worse as if you could not guess.  Every now and again it produces a few cones, and they are almost like flowers, a helix of fertile leaves, which in this case produce pollen.  A colleague, to whom this image belongs, braved the tropical swelter to get a nice image for teaching. A few years back TPP braved bodily injury to remove and pickle one of these cones in ethanol. Isn't that a marvelous helical packing of fertile leaves?

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