RSS

Roses are Red, Violets are Cleistogamous, Sugar is Sweet, and Vultures Monogamous

20 Feb

Bog White Violet

Viola lanceolata

Violaceae

The tidbit about (Black) Vultures just goes to show you, table manners do not matter in dating. What do vultures have to do with violets other than starting with the letter V? Answer: They’re both gregarious but have oddly restricted genetic exchange. Genetic testing shows black vultures to limit genetic exchange to one partner, despite apparent opportunities for side-stepping at a road kill party.

Happily married vulture by JB

Happily married vulture by JB

Violets, which having beautiful broadly pollinated blossoms, have also “cleistogamous” (kleist-OG-ah-muss) flowers, which are small, inconspicuous flowers that bear fruit without ever opening. They often look like buds. Most cleistogamous flowers are self-pollinated, thus creating clones or near-clones of the parent plant. Cleistogamous flowers occur in a lot of plants; they are sort of a plan B. That is, in addition to mixing genes broadly helped by the birds and bees visiting regular flowers, use also cleistogamous flowers to make backup copies of the parent plant. Look for cleistogamous flowers low on violet plants.

Cleistogamous flower and regular flower (by JB)

Cleistogamous flower and regular flower (by JB)

There are 500-600 violet species in the world. Three species inhabit our usual Treasure-Coast haunts, with Bog White Violet, Viola lanceolata, common and conspicuous. It has white flowers with purple nectar guides (tracks) leading into the floral center.

The purple nectar guides correspond with the veins (JB)

The purple nectar guides correspond with the veins (JB)

The purple pigments are called anthocyanins, and interestingly, anthocyanin colors change with acidity and alkalinity. Might be fun to try with some violets. More interestingly, in violets and in many other plants, the coloration corresponds with the petal veins. Why? When you think it over, that is weird. How can a pigment be confined in veins, which are made of dead water-conducting cells and highly specialized sap-carrying cells? I mean, plumbing with running water is no good place to sequester a pigment. But:
The color is not actually in the plumbing. To explore this further we have to go to other plants and extrapolate speculatively to today’s case. In other species with similar colored-vein patterns there is a gene called “venosa.” Responding to some mysterious cue, the venosa gene turns on pigment-making genes in the leaf cells overlying veins. In short, something about being near a comparatively large vein turns on a gene. That gene is a switch to turn on different genes, and those second genes case pigment formation.
Violets enjoy a little help from ants in dispersing their seeds. The seeds have a small food packet attached.. Hungry ants drag the candy bar with that pesky seed attached back to their well-tilled, fertilized, and armed-guarded nests. Great place for the violet to grow, and make more seeds for more ants.

Violet seeds with food packets for ants. (By Jose Hernandez, USDA Database, permitted use.)

Violet seeds with food packets for ants. (By Jose Hernandez, USDA Database, permitted use.)

Advertisements
 
6 Comments

Posted by on February 20, 2013 in Violet

 

Tags: , , ,

6 responses to “Roses are Red, Violets are Cleistogamous, Sugar is Sweet, and Vultures Monogamous

  1. Mary Hart

    February 21, 2013 at 4:07 am

    Wild violets flourish in UK – real harbingers of spring. The most common, Viola riviana, comes up all over my tiny, urban garden, without needing any care! Perhaps, tho’ my favourite is Viola odorata, either blue or white, and, as the name implies, beautifully scented.

     
  2. George Rogers

    February 21, 2013 at 6:18 am

    Good morning Mary, My first job this AM will be to Google Viola riviana.

     
  3. Martin

    February 21, 2013 at 8:24 am

    That’s the most beautifulest buzzard I ever seen!

     
  4. George Rogers

    February 21, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Yes, John is very freindly with the buzzards of Savannas State Park. He can get up close and personal without a giant lens. Have you ever noticed how tame those birdies can be?

     
  5. Suellen Granberry-Hager

    February 13, 2014 at 10:51 am

    I was at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park last Saturday and saw what I think was a V. lanceolata. It was so tiny that it was easy to miss. I am learning to stoop and study the ground to find the little treasures there. From the photo, I assume the food packet is the little projection from the larger round seed. How clever of the violet to trick the ants into dispersing the seeds into favorable sites. (I read your post on people attributing anthropomorphic qualities to plants. No, I don’t think the violets intentionally added a food packet to their seeds, but I bet you could get some headlines in some media outlets by claiming that.)

     
  6. George Rogers

    February 13, 2014 at 11:11 am

    What a beautiful wildflower that is, and in our violet-deprived part of the world. And yep, the food packet is the little do-hickey you described. I agree—the world of nature is so full of complexity and wonder, it always amazes me when somebody grabs hold of one wondrous observation and suddenly—boom–“plant intelligence” as if humans have failed to notice the intricacy of nature for a few thousand years.

     

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: