BSA Parasitic Plant Pages

Balanophora fungosa

  parasitic plant - Balanophora fungosa

Balanophora is a flowering plant that parasitizes roots of trees. It belongs to a tropical family, Balanophoraceae. This is Balanophora fungosa, on the forest floor of Mossman Gorge, near Cairns in Queensland, Australia. Notice the pale colored modified leaves at the bases of these two shoots. Balanophora is entirely lacking in green pigments.

parasitic plant - Balanophora fungosa

Each flowering stalk of Balanophora fungosa bears thousands of female flowers (the top portion) and a much smaller number of male flowers near the base of the flowering stalk. About twenty male flowers can be seen on the flowering stalk at left (they have white tips). The flowering stalk at right is older, and the male flowers have faded.

The female flowers on the top half of this flowering stalk of Balanophora fungosa are unbelievably small--they just look like grains of a white powder. The male flowers have petal-like structures (brownish in color) surrounding the white pollen-bearing portions.

parasitic plant - Balanophora fungosa

At a higher magnification, details of the male flowers and the female flowers on this flowering stalk of Balanophora fungosa become evident. The surface of the portion bearing female flowers, above, now can be seen to consist of small structures.

Below, middle image, is a male flower of Balanophora fungosa at very high magnification. Out of focus are a few of the brown petal-like structures. The white globe consists of the structures bearing pollen, the anthers, which have opened and look like papery scales. With a little imagination, you can see white pollen grains among those scale-like structures.

The final image highlights a small portion of the flowering stalk of Balanophora fungosa, showing female flowers at very high magnification. There are two kinds of structures here, which differ in size. The bigger ones are structures that are difficult to name. We don't know what they represent for sure--are they like petals, or are they some other kind of formation? The tiny structures are the female flowers. If not the tiniest flowers in the world of flowering plants, they are close to being the tiniest.

 

 
 
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