Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - An African Bignon

Our African trip was focused on animals not plants, but TPP was at least familiar with one rather common tree that was in flower & fruit this time of year, the beginning of the dry season.  It's called the sausage tree because of the big, heavy indehiscent fruits hanging down like so many salami in a deli (bottom image).  Like other Bignons, Kigelia africana, has winged seeds but since the fruit doesn't open they don't get much of a chance to fly until after a large mammal gnaws it open.  The dark maroon-colored flowers only open for a single night and they are bat pollinated; sometimes you can see the marks left by bat thumb hooks on the outer throat of the flower.  Since the flower is rather large and fleshy that much biomass attracts considerable interest and various antelope, and even elephants will stop by trees for a snack of recently dropped corollas.


Friday Fabulous Flower - Very rare, not an Aster

 TPP is back!  It was a great trip even if it required several episodes of covid testing (failed them all, a good thing), including one administered by a nurse helicoptered into a field camp for just 9 of us.  At any rate today's not a Friday, not an aster, is actually called a false Aster, Boltonia decurrens.  Presently it is flowering in our perennial garden.  At well over 7 feet tall it is truly a standout.  And this is a rare plant in Illinois, an endangered species.  And having never seen it in the field it was quite surprise.  Now TPP knows what you are going to say, "Endangered? it looks like a fleabane aster, an Erigeron.  And technically TPP has no idea why it isn't one, and sorry haven't had the chance to look it up.  The numerous narrow pinkish ray flowers and yellow disk flowers certainly to look like a fleabane aster.  This particular species has leaf bases that are prominently decurrent down the stem, but Verbesina (wing stem) as the name suggests has winged stems so the two could be confused if you only had stems.  Although the yellow ray flowers of the latter leave no doubts.