Cave Plants?

Discussion in 'Plants: Identification' started by Mycos, Mar 31, 2006.

  1. Mycos

    Mycos Active Member

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    On another web-forum I came across someone who had posted several pics of a plant that is so unusual that he thought it might be a fungus. They are surely something from the Plant Kingdom....but what?
    These things were found deep in a cave as well, so I have to wonder what they are using for energy. More here.

    Link is repaired ( I hope).

    http://www.worldisround.com/articles/288563/index.html
     

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  2. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    I held this one for a day to make sure that Mykos had permission to post the copyrighted images, so I am bumping it to the top.

    What the heck are those things?! They don't look like a fungus.
     
  3. Rima

    Rima Active Member

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    I believe they are fungus, but it would really help to know what part of the world, cave or not, they're in. BTW, the link doesn't work.
     
  4. wrygrass2

    wrygrass2 Active Member 10 Years

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    The link works for me. Probably a browser conflict. I'm using IE6. Either that or the page was down when you looked. You can then put picture numbers above and below the 229.jpg (like 228.jpg) to see others in the sequence. Didn't figure out where they were taken at though.

    I too thought it might be a fungus, but the bracts? leaves? on the stem would seem to rule that out? The overall shape and even the unopen growths on the fruiting body seem to be that of a mushroom, though. Really strange in any case. Neat thing. Harry
     
  5. wrygrass2

    wrygrass2 Active Member 10 Years

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    I think it is a fungus. The bracts, leaves go up into the fruiting body. That's probably not the right term for either of them. But it looks like they are more fungus like than that of a plant. Harry
     
  6. David in L A

    David in L A Active Member 10 Years

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    Something in the Balanophoraceae?
     
  7. Mycos

    Mycos Active Member

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    The Balanophoraceae link led me to B. lowii. <http://tinyurl.com/gqo7b> In this pic I can see all the "parts" although the relative sizes of them appears quite different. But apart from that, I think this must be awfully close if not an actual positive ID. What seals it for me is the white pollen on the male plant, something I missed in the original photo's (that Forest Ang posted at forestexplorers.com)., thinking that the white tips were merely areas where the pic was over-exposed.

    In the first (far-left) photo at the top here, you can see the white pollen-covered male tips in the lower right, with a female flower at the left that reminds me now of a cat-tail or bull-rush. These same features are all there on the lowii link.

    In any case, I emailed Mr. Ang to ask for the location. Hopefully that should narrow it down.
     
  8. wrygrass2

    wrygrass2 Active Member 10 Years

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    Thinking it was a fungus I wrote to Tom Volk to see if he could id it, and he replied almost immediately.

    Tom Volk wrote:

    Here is a google image search for Conopholis.

    Harry
     
  9. wrygrass2

    wrygrass2 Active Member 10 Years

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    Following up on David in LA's Balanophoraceae I found this page with photos and illustrations of the genera/species. Still was unable to narrow it down. Someone with a more critical eye might be able to. Also the fact that it was found in a cave could mean that it's typical growth might not match up to the plants pictured. I would think there would be a reduced availability of a nutrient source. That might change the size, vigor, of the plant. The location should help to pin it down. Harry
     
  10. Mycos

    Mycos Active Member

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    With all due respect to Tom there, I still think the totally separate male and female flowers, the white pollen, the cattail "catkin", even that amber/sepia tone of those bract looking things, how they blacken and eventually rot off leaving just a stub attached to the main stem.....it's all there. You can see in the Ang photos where they have fallen off and leave a blackened area in around the living portions. With the large bracts gone, the photo of lowii and Angs are identical in all respects except for the number of "stamens". Even the bright white pollen (?) is unusual. So color, separate flowers, overall morphology or structure...... to find them together in one plant is too much to be coincidence. I'd bet the house that if it's not B. lowii, it's close. I'm sure "David in LA" nailed it.

    In any case, I emailed the fellow who 's name was is on the Balanaphor edu. website. Assuming he's an expert on that -aceae, let's hope to hear something back.

    I think we're pretty well settled on it not being a fungus? For myself, I know fungi quite well, and apart from a few oddballs cup-fungi, some of the Stinkhorns (Phallales) the macrofungi fungi all tend to fit into some standard looking groups, each with a fairly standard structures, and none of which resembles this thing --- at all. In fact, if it were a fungus, I'd go so far as to say that it would surely be an entirely new Order, a huge find that would son have this site swamped. Believe me, I wish Iwasn't so sure because I'd love to be in on the discovery of that!!! :-)

    A little OT here, but that reminds me of local entomologist Jack Gregson, who when still young and an unrecognized "amatuer", proceeded to find an Ice-Bug (Grylloblattadae) in the mountainside outside my window here. These are several 100 million years old and are the ancestor from which cockroaches and crickets evolved. He knew enough to know it was unusual so he had it ID'ed and sure enough it was a new species. The very next international entomology symposium that was held in NA had his bug as the event "mascot". Very, very cool.

    Btw. Trevor, your lichen curator at UBC knows the fellow, us all being from the same area here.
     
  11. wrygrass2

    wrygrass2 Active Member 10 Years

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    I agree that it is a plant and not a fungus. Also I went ahead and posted Tom Volk's reply before I read David in LA's post and your reply. So I'm pretty much of the mind now after looking at the genus that it is Balanophora. And your choice of B. lowii seems to be the one or as you say a close relative. Harry
     
  12. Mycos

    Mycos Active Member

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    Okay! I just heard from Forest Ang. He tells me that the location is in Malaysia. If someone needs more specificity, I can give that privately. The finder wants to ensure there's no stampede should this be something unusual. Anyhow, the plant is growing in total blackness tens of meters from the cave mouth. It is on an island in a stream running through the cave. The walls are limestone with a solid limestone structure coming down to the island from a roof "about 3 meters" high.

    For any tree root to make it through this limestone structure or around the stream and up under into the island...well, both seem unlikely to me. Bit of a "stretch" you might say (Boo, hissss....yeah, yeah. Last one <g>).

    Anyhow, I'm off to see how those different Balanaphors make their living. See if one fits the picture.
     
  13. Mycos

    Mycos Active Member

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    I sent and recieved a message from Todd Barkman (UWMichigan) the fellow who has done several papers on the very familiy we have been hovering around, the Balanophoraceae

    In his words:
    Seems about settled to me then. David in LA nails another!
     
  14. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Esteemed Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    These are very cool, I must say.
     
  15. Mycos

    Mycos Active Member

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    Yes. And that we're even seeing it at all, and especially under these circumstances, is rather incredible.

    In response to my question on how they propagate themselves, thinking that this might shed some light on how they came to be found deep inside a cave, Dr. Barkman responded, "It is really not clear how these things propagate. The seeds are soooooo darn small that they could easily be wind blown or water carried. One thing that is not clear either is how far they may grow inside of the host. I highly doubt they could grow inside of the root all the way to the depths of a cave but who knows! In any case, still quite amazing that they found roots inside of the cave. That is the pay off I suppose for producing millions (probably) of seeds / female inflorescence. It sounds like this individual won the lottery so to speak!"

    So I gather from this that it really is quite a find. I'd also venture that the circumstances of it's growth must contain at least some instructional value regarding the possibilities of an unknown life cycle, so it seems to be a bit of a lottery win for everyone involved!. Made my day anyhow :-)
     
  16. debbieg

    debbieg Member

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    I Play a little game on this site to see if I can identify the plants before looking and seeing what the experts have to say. I thoroughly enjoyed this one of he said but he said. When I first say this photo I immediately remembered my childhood. My mother always called a plant that looked exactly like this in the hills of Kentucky squaw brush or squaw root. Still an interesting read.
     
  17. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Esteemed Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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  18. SvenLittkowski

    SvenLittkowski Active Member

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    I live in Jamaica, and saw the Balanophoraceae at a location inside the rain forest between the Blue Mountains, and made some photos. Amazing plants.

    I started to send seeds of the Balanophoraceae to people across the world who want to grow them, for placing orders (free of cost) see the International Seed Exchange forum (ISE) at http://InternationalSeedExchange.jamaica-focus.com. This plant requires a host plant, since the Balanophoraceae don't use sun light for their growth.
     

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