Field of Science

New plant - a succulent

 A friend gave TPP several new plants, all part of a decorative pot of succulents.  All of the plants have some features associated with living in sunny, xeric environments.  My friend lacked the space and light needed to over winter such plants, but he decided we had more.  And well, he's sort of right.  

At any rate this plants leaves are shaped a bit like a banana, round in cross section and tapering to the apex. The most striking feature though is the darker green strip funning from the base of each leaf to the tip.  This is actually the top of the leaf, and far from being pigmented, the tissue is transparent, clear.  The photosynthetic portion is a relatively thin layer wrapping around the rest of the leaf leaving the center of the leaf filled with clear water storage tissue.  But more importantly, this tissue lets light enter the interior of the leaf to illuminate the chloroplast containing cells. TPP suspects that this clear tissue is a multiple layered epidermis.  Such windowed leaves are fairly common in succulent plants.

This plant is not a cactus although many people think succulents and cacti are the same thing.  Sorry, no.  This plant is a member of the aster or daisy family in the genus Senecio, one of the world's biggest genera containing over 1200 species.  TPP thinks this may be S. radicans, but there are several succulent species in this genus.  So pictured above is an inflorescence composed of about 15 5-lobed disk flowers (that would form the button of a daisy).  Each flower has a column of anthers and the pollen gets pushed out the top of the anthers as the style pushes the stigma up and out.  The two halves of the stigma then uncoil sort of looking like an antenna. Also of interest the flowers seem sort of spicy scented, a bit allspicy.  Generally the plant isn't raised for its floral display.

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