Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Ghost cycads in the sky

Obviously the true plantsman (or plantswoman) is not going to settle for a hanging basket of trailing petunias when there are so many awesome plants in the world and cycad fans are lucky enough to have an epiphyte of their very own to address the hanging basket issue. This is Zamia pseudoparasitica, a cycad that lives in trees!

zamia pseudoparasitica

Interestingly there is an argument this is not a true epiphyte, in the wild Z. pseudoparasitica produces a huge and long tap root that finds its way down to the ground. Apparently big one's often fall off the opposite side of their branch to their tap roots with the result they end up hanging upside down by a single root just below their branch. There is a paper on the subject here with some amazing and bizarre photos.

zamia psuedoparasitica4

Why "ghost cycad" in the title (other than then obvious lyrical reference)? Surely its not another endangered cycad? Well in this case the ghost refers to the memory of another specimen alongside this one. This was taken at Fairchild Tropical Garden which, in the aftermath of a Hurricane a few years ago cleared itself up to find a few very rare cycads had apparently been stolen to order - at least one of these was part of the lost batch.

zamia psuedoparasitica3

That is not to say this species is safe in the wild; it is not and it is also (obviously) habitat dependent in a way many other species are not. Happily this one had a cone on it. To me, this looks like a female cone which has been fertilised (hence the slightly lopsided shape where some ova have been fertilised and others haven't) but I could be wrong - obviously at height it wasn't easy to look at.

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