Friday, February 24, 2017

Botany picture #241: Psilotum

Currently I am in the Bane of Bris, in the Land of the Queen, having today co-organised a workshop. I may have mentioned before that there are certain groups that seemed weird and exotic but that some exposure to Australia has suddenly made seem rather more mundane and everyday. One example are cycads, which to my botany student self in Germany seemed to be this rare dinosaur plant of which you might see one displayed in the greenhouse of a botanic garden, but which cover the entire forest floor just a bit east of where I live now.

Today's example is Psilotum, a weird fern that is morphologically so reduced that it was for a long time considered to be a living fossil representing the first vascular plants before the invention of roots. We now know that it is instead nested within the monilophytes and has lost the roots secondarily, but still, weird. So again my student self knew it as a rare and fascinating object studied in a first year botany course but would not have thought to ever see it in the wild. And today I walked past a specimen growing on an alley tree in the city centre of Brisbane, between the workshop venue and our hotel. That was unexpected.

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