Tag Archives: tropicals

The Strangler Fig

A random photo from the interwebs. I will upload photos of the stranglers I saw in So America once I get around to scanning them. The trip was prior to the digital age.

The Strangler Fig

Family: Moraceae (Mulberry)

Ficus spp.

Sound like something from a horror movie? Well, its behavior certainly is.  The rotten habits of the Strangler Fig have earned this type of Ficus its dastardly nick-name.

Strangler Fig is a common term for several species of Ficus that grow in tropical and subtropical forests throughout the world,  and the term can even be used to refer to any vine that exhibits the behavior similar (sucking the life out of its host plant while it thrives). As there are more than 150 species of Strangler figs in the New World forests alone, I’m going to focus mainly on the ones in Central and South America. Several years ago, on an ethonobotanical sojourn to a Peruvian rainforest, the tale of the Stranglers was relayed to me by one of our local guides and has haunted me ever since.

In a very general sense, the Strangler Figs are considered Banyans, as Banyans are defined as a fig that starts out as an epiphyte. This is very common because most species (if not all) of Ficus produce small fruits (figs!) which birds, bats, monkeys and other small animals dine on, thus distributing the seeds via their waste, to all manner of cracks and crevices of a host tree. (This is not to be confused with the Ficus benghalensis, or Indian banyan which is the national tree of India.)

In the competitive world of the tropical forest, sunlight and compost are hot commodities. The Strangler fig has figured out exactly how to get what it needs.Once the animal has left behind the seed, which is now nestled in a crook of a tree covered in fertilizer (aka animal feces) it is only a matter of hours before it starts to thrive. Slowly it grows roots, which begin to reach down toward the soil below. The roots can grow hundreds of feet long, and eventually form a lattice-like network around the tree’s trunk and into its root system. It also grows up toward the sunlight, eventually shading the host tree from sunlight. In this way the Strangler fig is slowly but surely strangling the life out of its host tree. It is robbing the nutrients from the ground, gobbling up the sunlight above, and using the structure to wrap ever tighter and grow ever larger. More often than not the Strangler Fig kills its host, though some have shown enough mercy to let the host tree live–though it is only a shadow of the life they once had.

You wouldn’t necessarily notice if you strolled by one. You might just think you see a big, beautiful, healthy Ficus tree. But upon closer inspection you’ll see the “trunk” is a network of roots, its support being the carcass inside.

Strangler figs do play an important role in the ecology of forests, including providing rotanical homes for bats and other small animals as well as food for a wide variety of species.

A very wonderful and menacing plant in the kingdom of Rotten Botany.

 

 

 

Advertisements
Tagged , , ,

The Voodoo Lily

Sauromatum venosum 

Oh the things that grow in the dank earth, the things that thrive on rain and shadows and neglect. The Voodoo Lily,  sometimes identified as S. venosum (although there are other species of Amorphophallus that are called Voodoo Lillies) seems like something you’d find growing at the Crossroads. With a speckled, bloody red flower, and the foul smell of a corpse when in full-bloom, the Voodoo Lily certainly seems to belong to the world of swamps and curses and spells. This zombie-scented flower’s disgusting aroma is used to attract flies and beetles as its pollinators. The Voodoo Lily’s flower forms similarly to the Black Calla and Vampire Lily, with a tall central spike, or spadix, surrounded by the spathe. For the Voodoo Lily, the spadix is the richest of reds, and the spathe is a vibrant red spotted with deep burgundy. Especially enchanting even when not in bloom, the Voodoo Lily’s speckled leaf spikes appear after the single flower has come and gone, shooting up and branching out to look like miniature gothic tropical trees, green and smattered with blood red spots at the base. Bizarre, enchanting, and gorgeously ghastly!

Culture-

Height: 14”-20”

Hardiness: to 25º

Prefers partial shade, regular water during growth period. Stop watering after bloom for several weks. Allow to die back, then, if growing in pot leave pot out in the rain. Thrives on gloomy sweet rain. Native to tropical Africa and Asia.

This is not my lily, but the same kind. I got this from http://www.ruralramblings.com. I hope they don't mind!

Tagged , , , ,
Advertisements