Monday, December 5, 2011

Cyclamen Exhibits Parental Instinct

Fig.1  The long flower stalks of cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) curl downwards as the fruit develops.

About a year ago, I wrote something about the mystery of the cyclamen flower.  It has been my observation that the cyclamen flower is very fascinating.  At that time, I thought that the reflexing of the petals was all there was to it.   And yet as I continued to watch this plant I observe that the plant is in a serious business of ensuring a successful reproduction. Firstly,  all the petals reflex up when the flowers open to expose the androecium (pollen-producing parts) and gynoecium (ovule-producing parts). This is nature's way of promoting effective pollination.  Secondly, after pollination, the mystery continues as the plant tries to ensure that the seeds will eventually emerge into new plants.

Fig,. 2    The fruits are tucked under the leaves to mature.

Tucked Under the Leaves.  When pollination has occurred and petals have dropped, the long flower stalk arches down (Fig. 1) to an almost perfect circle (the fruit almost touching the base of the plant)(Fig.2) as if to hide the fruits safely under the leaves.  In the case of other species (Cyclamen coum, Cyclamen graecum, and Cyclamen rohltsianum), the stalks coil down  The seeds under the leaves are protected from seed-eating birds or larger pests.   The foliage of the plant also provides a suitable microclimate for the seeds to grow.  Studies have shown that, there are three primary requirements for successful cyclamen seed germination: 1) absence of light; 2) adequate temperature; 3) constant water supply.  The thick and overlapping foliage of my plants inside pots provided all three requirements adequately as evidenced by the emergence seedlings (Fig. 3).

Fig.3    Cyclamen seedlings growing at the base of the plant.

New Life Begins.   At the base of the plant, the fruits matured and seeds dropped  as directed by nature.  When I saw seedlings growing under the leaves (Fig, 3) I was reminded of chicks taking refuge under the wings of the mother hen.

I am excited to have these seedlings and am curious to see what happens to them.   It is my intention to transplant some of them and leave some to grow where they are.    I wonder if these young seedlings are also equipped with yet another behavior that would allow them to make their way out from under the overlapping leaves of the mother plant.

Winter Plant.  At this time, my cyclamen plants are poised to bloom.  New flower buds are emerging like snake heads from the base of the plants (Fig. 3).  The patterned heart-shaped leaves (Fig.1) make the Cyclamen persicum an interesting plant even before the flowers come out. 

Cyclamen is not only an outstanding parent but also a striking winter and spring plant.
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