Daily Archives: 24th of June 2011

Phriday Photo: Wollemi Pine

I was in London earlier this week for an editorial meeting with many of the Annals of Botany members. As part of it, I took my first trip to Kew. So long as you’re not thinking, you can take a pleasant stroll around the gardens in two or three hours. There’s some nice shaded paths beneath the trees and some well-sculpted displays. If you stop and start thinking “Hey! Almost every one of these trees is different from its neighbours, how much effort is it to keep them all growing and healthy?” then you’ll need days. I took a few photos there and had the odd experience of one coming out as I expected it too. Usually I take dozens and try and find one I can rescue into something viewable.

A Wollemi Pine in a cage

A Wollemi Pine at Kew Gardens.

This is a Wollemi Pine. It’s found in Australia, but not very often as there’s fewer than 100 of them in the wild. It was also, till 1994, thought to be extinct as it was only known from fossils. It wasn’t till less than 20 years ago a stand of them was found 60 miles out of Sydney. Professor Carrick Chambers, director of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, said at the time of the discovery that it was “the equivalent of finding a small dinosaur still alive on Earth”.

You can find out why it’s in a cage at Kew, or buy one for yourself at the official website.

Function and evolution of sterile sex organs

Function and evolution of sterile sex organs

Function and evolution of sterile sex organs

Why are sterile anthers and carpels retained in some flowering plants, given their likely costs? Yu et al.  study a cryptically dioecious species, Petasites tricholobus, in which male and female plants each have two floret types that appear pistillate and hermaphroditic. Sterile female structures in male florets are found to be essential for secondary pollen presentation, which significantly enhances pollen dispersal, whilst sterile hermaphroditic florets on female plants attract pollinators by producing nectar. Sterile pistillate florets on male plants, however, do not contribute to floral display and are only found in about 55 % of plants, suggesting that they may be vestigial and will disappear over time.