Thursday, 17 July 2008

Talikubo - Can Anyone Tell me What This Is?

one of the weirdest plants I've ever come across. It grows on tree-trunks here in the Philippines, as a creeping vine This is one of the weirdest plants I've ever come across. It grows on tree-trunks here in the Philippines, and I only know its name (talikubo) in the local language, Surigaonon.

The leaf colours can vary from the pink-blushed green you see on the left (perhaps due to being in full sun?) to bright apple-green.

At first I thought it was a kind of fern, but then I see that it apparently has tiny flowers, that come out from underneath (?) the leaves . That's unusual for any flowering plant; most come out from the next node above the leaf.

I've only seen these flowers as they are shown here, like unopened buds.

Perhaps they open at night, or perhaps they're not flowers at all, but something else.

Note that, just below the second bunch of buds down, there's a strange naked phallic excrescence. Maybe it's a flower of the other gender, or maybe it's a new shoot going off to spread around another part of the tree.
If that's so, why does it grow up straight, and not have the sense to go out horizontally, right or left?

I wanted some of these plants to stick on my garden coconut trees, so I went to the jungle, and this is what I found when I stripped one off the tree

The leaves, pair by pair, are like a couple of inter-locking pieces of tortoise-shell armour. (the famous Roman testudo).

Underneath the close cover, the plant's colours are comfortably dark deep purple.

If I knew how to do it, I'd cue in a bit of Smoke on the Water at full volume about here, to make sure you're still reading.

The leaves' edges seal in the darkness and moisture enough to allow the roots to wander over surface of the tree trunk, and pick up nutrients. They don't have to leave their shelter, but some of them do.

This part is not especially strange; many creeping vines send out roots from their leaf nodes.

What is very strange is that this plant's leaves are not just silly old sunshine-pullers (which are wonderful enough), but have developed a strategy of hold-onto-all in convergence with limpets. Unlike limpets, though, they can't move; but they can send out another shoot, and thus progress over the tree bark.

I don't know of any other plants whose leaves have developed into small, domestic houses, where the leaf margins turn themselves into life-sustaining seals.

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