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.
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.
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
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.