Rhymes With Fuchsia

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tree Love

Remember the red maples with the different types of flowers that I thought were two species? Roxie, who is very clever despite not being a trained botanist, had it right: those are male and female trees of the same species, Acer rubrum.

I knew that most angiosperms (flowering plants) included both male and female parts in every flower. These, I learn from Wikepedia, are called bisexual, hermaphroditic, or synoecious. Some plants like holly are dioecious, having separate male and female plants, but I didn't expect to find this somewhat exotic arrangement in the ordinary red maple.

The first picture shows male flowers with an anther at the end of each stamen (how about that? guys really do have all the anthers); the second shows female flowers with red pistils. The male flowers fall off, while the female ones become samaras, those little helicopter things we loved to play with as kids. (My brother and I used to put them on our noses and call ourselves Pinocchio.)

You never know what you'll learn while blogging about random subjects. Thanks to Alwen and Lisa for the technical terminology (dioecious would make a great Scrabble word, except for having nine letters; but you might get lucky and have us already on the board). And Roxie, of course, is clever about everything, including hats as well as trees. You should see what she wore to the Harlot's event in Portland.


  • THoroughly cool. I'm not awake yet this a.m., but now I AM educated.

    By Blogger Laurie, at 6:01 AM  

  • Ahhh, shazam! Garsh, you sure say nice things. Thanks! It was a lucky guess, but I just wallow in the compliments, so will take them all. You're the one with the observant eye!

    By Blogger Roxie, at 9:24 AM  

  • Pinocchio-noses have a proper Latin name? Cool! :-)

    By Anonymous Beth S., at 10:06 AM  

  • Dioecious, with all its vowels, would probably be a good crossword puzzle word too.

    By Blogger Danielle, at 10:37 AM  

  • According to the official list of the American Scrabble Association, "oe" is also an acceptable Scrabble word (apparently a variant of "oy", which is a Scots word for "grandchild"), so there's another opportunity, however vanishingly rare, for diOEcious.

    Sadly, most dictionaries list the alternative spelling "diecious", which, although still a good way to get rid of vowels, is otherwise much less interesting.

    By Anonymous Grant, at 5:26 PM  

  • I used to tell my students that xylem and phloem would be killer scrabble words. And how's this for complicating the complicated... in mosses it is dioicous (4 syllables, with a 'k' sound).

    By Blogger knitnzu, at 7:37 PM  

  • marvels Why do I never think of xylem when I get the X and the Y in Scrabble?

    "Water up, sugar down" was our plant circulation mnemonic lo these many years ago.

    By Blogger Alwen, at 6:16 PM  

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