Heat producing Philodendron flower

Discussion in 'Araceae' started by ChrisR, May 12, 2008.

  1. ChrisR

    ChrisR Active Member

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    Hi all,

    I have a large philodendron bipinnatifidum as a house plant which lives in our conservatory. Since being repotted last year into the largest pot I could find at our garden center, it sat dormant for a little while and then rapidly exploded into a flurry of growth, virtually doubling in size. It appears to be very happy. Recently, it produced 4 flower buds on the main stem and 2 on a smaller side stem. This is quite exciting for us since this is the first time the plant has ever flowered. The plant has a little history to it, being originally given to me by my mother some 25 years ago who had herself owned it for 25 years previously. So it's slightly older than I am.. 50 years. She had mistakenly told me it was a monstera deliciosa which is what I always thought it was until recently, thanks to this website.

    One of the four buds opened a few days ago. I'd read that some of these flowers can produce heat in the evening to encourage pollination(?) Sure enough, on an infra red thermometer, the spadix measured 37 degrees centigrade in a room temperature of 24 degrees centigrade i.e the flower was 13 degrees hotter than room temperature. Which I find astonishing. I took the measurement early evening at about 8 pm.

    Does anyone know how the flower manages to produce this heat?

    The flower does have a faint (& v pleasant) scent, a little like musk. The scent is more easily noticable on my fingertips after gently touching the spadix. I'm absolutely enthralled by this intriguing plant which seems to grow visibly daily!
     

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    Last edited: May 12, 2008
  2. ChrisR

    ChrisR Active Member

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    Since I took the last photo of the spadix, about 3 hours ago, there's been a marked change in it. It's produced some 'furry stuff' in consistency like powdery strands of cotton wool. I'm guessing this is pollen?
     

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  3. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

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    oh, that's SO interesting about the heat!!! i'd not heard of that (i'm still a bit new to the world of aroids, though). i'm sure steve or lara, or someone, will have some info on the phenomenon for you!

    yes, i'd say that fluff is the pollen.

    that's a really beautiful spath/spadix/inflorescence!!! and the plant, itself, absolutely fabulous!!!
     
  4. ChrisR

    ChrisR Active Member

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    Thank you very much joclyn, I'm very interested to hear more about the plant from the experts on here!

    Since taking the 'pollen fluff picture' the spath fully closed this evening. The remarkable part being that after gently scraping the pollen(?) into an old film container to reveal the spadix as before, I went onto the computer and when I returned some 5 minutes later, to my amazement found the spadix had started to become fluffed once again. The pollen had started to 'grow' back within 5 minutes or so. So this time I carefully removed the pollen once again and set my camera on a tripod and managed to photograph the spath closing as the pollen grew back over 20 minutes or so.

    Attached the sequence of photos each taken at 5 minute intervals, apart from the last photo which was taken 35 minutes after the first.

    The sequence seems to have been(?)

    Day 1. Flower opens fully. Evening, produces heat and pleasant musk like scent.
    Day 2. Spadix elongates, produces lots of pollen(?) & spath then closes around it
    Day 3. To be continued.... (!)

    Fortunately there are a further five unopened spaths for me to confirm that's what happens!
     

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  5. edleigh7

    edleigh7 Well-Known Member

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    Chris, Aroids are renowned for producing heats in the spadix. Skunk cabbage for example (I can't think of the botanical name off hand), can heat up enough to melt the snow and be one of the first plants out, to take advantage of the pollenators. We have an aroid forum on here, you might want to move this thread over there for a more detailed response...

    Ed
     
  6. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    I'm not sure what the exact metabolic reaction is, but the flowers produce heat in a manner similar to humans; it's a waste product of some process that's going on within the spadix.

    You are right in assuming that the fluffy stuff is pollen. I've seen other aroids do the nocturnal closing thing; it seems to be to prevent the pollen from being eaten rather than distributed.

    PhotoPro and LariAnn probably know waaay more about this than us - one or the other should be by eventually and they'll be able to give you the whole scientific reasoning behind the behaviour.

    Kudos on getting blooms! It means you're doing something right, and that the Philo may finally be maturing.
     
  7. ChrisR

    ChrisR Active Member

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    Thanks very much for your replies. I'm not sure how to move the thread as there don't appear to be any options to do this, but if the moderator would like to move this thread into the Aroid section I'd be more than happy!
     
  8. edleigh7

    edleigh7 Well-Known Member

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    Chris...click on "Thread Tools", then select "Move Thread" and then select where you want to move it to : )

    Ed
     
  9. ChrisR

    ChrisR Active Member

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    Thanks Ed, I did try that - but I think the problem may be that I don't have sufficient posts (or been a member long enough) to have that option show here? : (
     

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    Last edited: May 13, 2008
  10. edleigh7

    edleigh7 Well-Known Member

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    True Chris, maybe Daniel or Eric will be so kind enough to move it for you. There are some Aroid experts that only visit that forum.

    Ed
     
  11. Daniel Mosquin

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

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    (moved - sorry, still catching up on moderating from last week's absence)
     
  12. ChrisR

    ChrisR Active Member

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    Thanks!
     
  13. ChrisR

    ChrisR Active Member

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    I did a time lapse set of photos today of the 2nd flower opening up. Starting from midday to late evening, one hour apart. Photo 'start.jpg' is the first in the sequence, photo 'end.jpg' is the last one.

    The sequence shows the spadix moving outward & away from the spathe. The spadix finally comes to rest early evening & then starts to heat up. I measured it at 43 centigrade early evening, room temperature being 23 centigrade. That's a lot of effort for a flower to make which only lasts one day, so it got me wondering why it moves?

    My theory!

    Look at the shape of the spathe - I think it's designed as a big infra red reflector for the spadix which moves into the correct (focal) position & then heats up.

    The heat generating part of the spadix (according to my infra red thermometer) is positioned in the middle section of the spadix. Which places it nicely at the focal point of the spathe. It heats up at evening so it's going to be better seen against the fading light. It'll probably look like a beacon to insects & for good measure it throws out a lovely sweet peppery musk scent.

    The spathe is coloured white = a good reflector. Also, the 4 main buds on my philo have grown each at right angles to one another so the flowers will open in 90 degree arcs each covering a separate direction.... so have we here an infra red lighthouse for insect pollination??
     

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  14. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    That seems like quite a sound theory. I've never actually watched my aroids open and close their spathes, very cool!
     
  15. edleigh7

    edleigh7 Well-Known Member

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    Excellent work Chris...

    Ed
     
  16. ChrisR

    ChrisR Active Member

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    Thanks guys :)

    Attached closest analogy I could find - there's certain structural similarities(!) I've started another set of time lapsed photos this morning, with the spathe being slightly less open this morning than last night. I want to see what happens next. There's no sign of any pollen or the sticky globs of fluid on the spathe yet.

    Thinking out loud, I'm wondering perhaps the way this works is...
    Day1. Spathe opens up & extends spadix. Spadix then heats up in evening, broadcasting like a beacon & attracting insects.
    Day2. Spathe makes sticky globs of fluid. Spadix then releases pollen.

    Stuff I'd love to know:

    What makes the insects stay overnight? Do they? Or are they just attracted to the vicinity of the plant?

    Is the fluid a reward for insects like a breakfast / lunch?
    Do the insects eat this fluid or is the fluid there to make the pollen stick better to an insect which (probably?) gets this fluid over it as it clambers around inside? Or is it none of this?
     

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  17. ChrisR

    ChrisR Active Member

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    Here is the opening sequence. It consists of eight frames. Each frame taken one hour apart, starting at 1:45pm in the afternoon.
     

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  18. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    I'd say that the sticky fluid is as close as aroids come to having nectar, and that it's serving the dual purpose of rewarding the insects for sticking around, and sticking pollen to them.

    If I recall correctly, flies do a lot of pollination of aroids, and for the most part, they're not exactly set up to be efficient pollen carriers. Except this one, which hangs out around Anthuriums here.... Point being that the plants have had to evolve not only a mechanism of attracting flies (heat and nectar) but also a method of efficiently sticking pollen to them (sticky.)

    Some of my arum lilies actually do their job too well, and in the morning I find little dead flies all stuck to the spadix, which confirms our theories but is also pretty gross when I want cut flowers. I've taken to carrying tweezers with me when I'm going out to cut them, just to pick the dead bugs out. I've never actually seen flies get stuck to Monstera, Colocasia, or long-bladed Anthuriums, but they don't seem to produce as much nectar as Philodendrons (the spadices are less sticky.)
     

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  19. edleigh7

    edleigh7 Well-Known Member

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    On my birds nest Anthurium, I found flies, beetles and really big mosquitoes on mine. Whether they are all pollenators or not is another question....

    Ed
     
  20. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    Well, I've actually watched those hairy flies (like I posted above) going from one Anthurium to another; if I catch them in the act they are white and fluffy with pollen. Not sure about the other things, but I can tell you that your giant mosquitos are probably Crane Flies, ed.
     
  21. edleigh7

    edleigh7 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Beth, I noticed that they didn't have a stinger on their behind, so you are probably right...

    Ed
     
  22. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    Hold the phone - Aussie skeeters have nasty pointy bits on both ends? And I thought Ecuadoran bugs were bloodthirsty!
     
  23. edleigh7

    edleigh7 Well-Known Member

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    Chris, you should put that time lapse photo for Botany Photo of the Day...

    Ed
     
  24. ChrisR

    ChrisR Active Member

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  25. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Post removed by poster.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2008

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