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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Peacock Fern (Selaginella willdenowii)

With it fronds glistening of iridescent metallic blue caused by the reflection of light often enhanced through the gentle breeze sweeping through the tropical rain forest and moisten from the wet environment of the forest floor, ignoring the uniqueness of this fern would be difficult as it stands out amongst the foliage of the forest floor.
This fern can be found climbing and twirling around other plants forming into many smaller branches at times. The fern is endemic to Indo China, Peninsular Malaysia and Indonesia.

From articles I read about this fern, the purpose for this unique exhibition of colors remains unclear. As a fern it produces no flowers, so the iridescent display by the fronds to functions as a mechanism to attract pollinators does not hold water. It has been speculated that this iridescent quality protects the fern from the ultraviolet rays of the sun which I believe many a botanist will disagree. Such is the work of nature that this iridescent leave fern are among the most striking of the world’s flora.

The current explanation for this iridescent quality is best described by (David. W. Lee 1977)
“The iridescence is apparently caused by the effect of thin film interference filters in the leaf epidermis. Lee pointed out that the convex epidermal cells in this species may focus light into a single, distal, large chloroplast, possibly adaptations for the improvement of photosynthetic efficiency at the forest floor level”.
Not being a botanist, I take that to mean the iridescent fronds help in improving the efficiency of the photosynthesis process.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cornstalk Dracaena (Dracaena fragrans)

Also known as Corn plant or Chinese Money Tree it belongs to the plant family Ruscaceae that looks like a corn stalk.
Native to West Africa, it is now wide spread across the globe due to its popularity as an indoor house plant. It is adaptable to a wide range of conditions, from full sun to low interior light conditions and grows best in half shaded areas.
It is easily propagated by cutting off segments of old canes a few inches long and then allowed to dry. Once sufficiently dried they are inserted into moist sand until rooted and new growth will emerge from old leaf scars.
The wild Dracaena fragrans has green leaves that can reach up to 3 feet long and 4 inches wide, often seen with a height that reaches almost 20 foot tall. However, once potted their size is stunted with slow growth and that is where I think its popularity as an indoor or house plant takes off.
Other varieties seen have leaves broadly striped with light green and yellow down the center.
When they flower and usually only very mature specimens do so, the white flowers are highly fragrant especially in the evenings, hence deriving the name fragrans. Contrary to popular believe, the plant does not wither after flowering but continues to grow.
Other properties of Dracaena fragrans not widely known, includes the plant used in the NASA Clean Air Study that shows it can help remove Formaldehyde from the environment, indicating it would also make a good natural air scrubber for the home.