Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Waltzing Matelea

It's a rare day you will see one of these. Otherworldly, sparkling like a faceted garnet, it beckons from my front porch with sort of a lipstick seduction.

I've tended this plant for about fifteen years and it has bloomed maybe five of those. Gonolobus (matelea) cyclophyllus is a rare plant in the Milkweed family found in Mexico. It attracts pollinators by smelling like rotten meat. Before you turn up your nose, I must tell all you chocolate lovers that the cacao tree is pollinated by tiny flies, so I doubt that its flower smells any better.

Another interesting thing about this plant is the caudex develops corky tubercles. Because it is capable of storing water in the swollen base it is considered a caudiciform. If you want to see other Dr. Suess-like plants just google caudiciform. I once had quite a large collection, and hope to again keep quirky flowering plants. That's one of the things that makes me the flowerweaver.

We have a couple of similar native plants. This one, Matelea reticulata, or Pearlvine Milkweed, is equally as stunning. Instead of a faux garnet it has a faux pearl for its center. Milkweeds feed many beautiful butterflies when they are still hungry caterpillars, and provide many of the phytochemicals used in medicine.

Can you see the similarities between them?


thecrazysheeplady said...

I loved your caudiciforms!

flowerweaver said...

I loved backpacking with the Earth Buddy! Those were the days...

Dana Jones said...

Ahh! Rotten meat huh? I noticed the smell of something dead outside my cabin the other day but couldn't find the corpse. Maybe it was some distant cousin of your milkweed?

Dana Jones said...

Hi Sage. My friend has a flower identification challenge on her blog and I bet you could win. NO one else has guessed it yet.

Her url is:

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