Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Botany picture #9: Justicia mirandae

Justicia mirandae (Acanthaceae), Mexico, 2007. The Acanthaceae are a pantropical family of flowering plants. Despite its large size of several thousand species, the family is usually easily recognizable by its unique fruit: few-seeded capsules with explosive seed dispersal (ballistochory). The seeds are often flattened, and their funiculi, the stalks that supplies them with nutrients while they are ripening, harden and build up tension to flick the seeds away.

Surprisingly for such a large family, relatively few species of Acanthaceae are of practical use. However, the family contains many stunning ornamentals because they often have extremely showy and colourful flowers or bracts, like this species. Part of the reason is that they have many bird-pollinated species, again like this one.

Justicia is the largest genus in the family but appears to be polyphyletic in its current circumscription. Spotting characters for the genus are strongly zygomorphic flowers, often with a fishbone pattern on the lower lip, only two fertile stamens, and often very asymmetric anthers. The latter two characters are clearly visible here but the fishbone pattern is lacking.

As you can probably tell, I had dealings with these plants once.

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