Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mystery of the Cyclamen Flower

Most plants that have experienced the summer find rest in autumn as they follow a common earth-tone color.  Red, yellow, orange and brown are normal.  Then there are those radical plants that seem to rebel against this trend.  One unexpected colors of fall comes from the cyclamen flowers.  Not only do they provide a fresh shift from the "dying or resting theme" of those plants that have gone through the rigors of summer, they also provide a renewed crisp life of the season.  Since there are very few varieties of flowers in bloom, I had the luxury of observing this plant more closely than usual. 

Pendant-like blossoms.

The cyclamen flower starts in a droopy position with the end tip of the petals pointing downwards.  The petals are folded in a very organized manner and twisted tightly together forming a beautiful pendant that gracefully hangs on the long pedicel.


The petals turn upward, one at a time.  Flowers exhibiting this tendency are called "reflexed flowers". This phenomenon in directional growth of plant parts can be explained by a differential growth on the opposing surfaces any plant part.  In the case of the cyclamen flowers, growths on the opposite surfaces of the petal are not the same.  The inner surface undergoes a faster cell division or elongation than the other side. 

One petal turns upward at a time.

Reflexed Flower

Flowers are designed in such a way that they contribute to the success of reproduction.  The reflexed petals may seem to make pollination easier than in other plant species since the style is clearly sticking out as seen in the above picture.  One would wonder why seeds rarely form from cyclamen flowers without human intervention.  So I did a little bit of research and found a suitable explanation.  There is an evidence that the stigma is inside instead of the outside the style (Reinchardt S., Ewald F., Hellwig F.).  In normal flowers, the stigma is the sticky part of the flowers where pollen grains would stick to prior to its growth in the style during pollination.  In cyclamen, it is reversed - the style was shown to have a terminal aperture which closes at some point during anthesis thus limiting pollination time. The chemical that controls this opening and closing of the style is not determined at the present.

There's always something new to learn from the garden and cyclamen is indeed an interesting flower!

What's happening in your garden today?

9 comments:

Bom said...

This is so interesting, Helen. I wonder if this is available locally. My daughter will surely enjoy the relex action of the petals. Thank you for the new information.

fer said...

Beautiful flower! I like the relaxed attitude it takes.
It is indeed a very interesting plant, thanks for all the new information. I would like to see it in person too.

Patty said...

Once again you provide wonderful detail into the mysteries of plants. In some areas where I live (Canada)you can grow these outdoors, but mostly they are grown in pots.

catmint said...

Hi Helen, this is my first visit to your blog and i love it already. So interesting to learn about the science as well as appreciate the beauty of plants. Like Patty, here (Melbourne, Australia) cyclamens are big in pots. But I love the tiny ones you sometimes see in gardens. I did try them once but they failed to thrive. cheers, catmint

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Very interesting post! I love how you captured the various stages of the flower opening.

Kate (daisygil_io) said...

Lovely post. I like how you photographed the petals opening. I think Cyclamen are such a wonderful addition to the winter months. And I love how their petals turn upwards. Like there is a big fan on their faces and they are windblown!

Helen Lewis said...

Thanks everyone for visiting my blog and thank you for all the comments you left. This is my first time to be online since posting "Cyclamen". I was out of Internet coverage for more than a week so I apologize for the lack of response from me. I'll explain myself in detail later when I can get access to a real keyboard- I'm using an iPhone and my fingers seem too big to type accurately. :)

mike 'hazeltree' thompson said...

most interesting and good photos too..thank you..

Anonymous said...

oh goodness! i just bought one of these and couldn't figure out what it was called, but what a beauty this flower actually is!!!

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