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Balanophora fungosa, Family
Credit & Copyright: Dr. Bruce G.
Explanation: This is an amazing but tiny and easily overlooked plant of the Australian tropics. Get down on your belly and say hello to Balanophora fungosa, the vascular plant that thinks it's a fungus.
This is an obligate saprophyte, a vascular plant that produces no chlorophyll and cannot convert sunlight into energy for growth. Rather, it grows as a parasite, feeding on roots of trees in the tropical forests of northeastern Australia. It looks and acts like a fungus, but it is really a flowering plant (angiosperm). The family Balanophoraceae is widely distributed throughout the southern hemisphere tropics.
Here is a closeup of the near pinhead-sized male flowers that ring each individual flowering stalk. These male flowers are only 0.5-1 mm (0.02-0.04 inches) long.
What is even more incredible than these miniature
flowers is that the globe of the flowering stalk is covered with
nearly microscopic female
flowers, hinted at in the photo here in the upper right (also see photo
below). They look
like white dust and must be among the tiniest flowers in the world.
So watch where you step in this amazing rainforest down under ... and take care to admire this plant that thinks it's a fungus.
Next week's picture: Gray Whale Feeding
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