The most varied flower on Earth

The best bouquets are often a riot of colours and shapes.  But, how can a single wild flower appear in 14 different versions of itself ?
The South African daisy species GORTERIA DIFFUSA comes in varied hues replete with petals of “notched yellow, rounded red or jagged peach” with centres of yellow, orange, green or black.  Even more incredible is the fact that the same flower comes in 14 distinct forms, making it, perhaps, “the most varied flower on earth”.

GORTERIA DIFFUSA

GORTERIA DIFFUSA


The truth is we don’t yet know, not exactly.  But research suggests this single mysterious daisy is at the centre of an evolutionary struggle, involving some tiny bee flies, sex and the art of deception.  And this struggle has created the astonishing variety of forms we see today in this single species.

Flowering plants create blooms to attract pollinators, mostly small insects that carry pollen away, allowing the plants to reproduce.  Plant breeders can, of course, artificially create varieties of one type of flower.
But, in the wild, its the arrival of new pollinators that can drive the evolution of “floral designs”.  Flowers that appear different, may attract new pollinators and produce more offspring.  That creates a “selection pressure” for flowers to evolve new colours and shapes and can lead to one flower species eventually splitting into two new species.
But this “multi-coloured daisy” doesn’t fit this pattern at all.  That’s because all 14 forms of the flower are pollinated by the same insect —— the small bee fly (MEGAPALPUS CAPENSIS).  Something else is going on, and there is a clue in the “flower’s structure”.

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Although it can present itself in “14 distinct forms”, there are actually just 3 “basic” or “functional” types of this South African Daisy.  The 1st type is called the “feeding form”.  These daisies provide nectar and pollen and their petals are “quite plain”, of “a single colour”.  On the “feeding form” it is just a flat pigmented surface.  There is no “three-dimensionality”, explains Dr. Marinus de Jager, a post-doctoral researcher at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.  Male and female bee flies simply feed from these flowers.

A 2nd type is called the “inspection form”.  These flowers also provide nectar and pollen for male and female bee flies.  But, they do something else too.  The flower also produces “spots” on its petals, that “mimic female bee flies”.  These attract the attention of the male bee flies.  “They’ll just quickly land on one of these “small black spots” ………. and then take off again,” says Jager, “but the flies aren’t that fooled by the spots that they try to mate them.  It’s not full-blown mating behaviour”.
The 3rd type is the “most deceptive”.  It also has spots, but they do not appear on every petal.  That better replicates the natural random pattern that would be formed by the temporary landing of one or more female bee flies.  The spots are also more complex, being “3-dimensional” and “raised off the surface”, including ridges ———- adaptations that make them appear more like a real bee fly.  The presence of these spots is itself remarkable.  Until recently, “Orchids were the only plant group thought to often use sexual mimicry to deceive and attract pollinators”.

GORTERIA DIFFUSA


These complex spots have long intrigued botanists who, first suggested they mimicked beetles, leading to the daisy’s common name, still used today ———- the BEETLE DAISY. —— In 1997, botanists examined these spots using a scanning electron microscope.  They found that the “spots reflect ultraviolet (UV) light” in the same way as a bee fly’s body does.  They also found that cells, around the centre of each spot, have light-reflecting tips, making the spot appear to sparkle in the sunlight.

But, were the spots really attracting the bee flies ?  Experiments were done to find out.  They removed “spotted” versus “unspotted” petals from flowers and then gave the bee flies a choice.  The result —– fewer spots meant fewer visits.  That suggests the males are sexually attracted to these spots, and by trying to mate with them, increasing the chances they will pollinate the flower.
More recently, Jager and collaborator Dr. Allan Ellis investigated whether the sexual preferences of the flies might be driving the evolution of so many different varieties of the BEETLE DAISY.  Females, they learnt, prefer simple spots and avoid UV highlights.  Males, in contrast, prefer textured, glossy, visually complex, UV highlighted spots.
Yet,  visual signs are not the only messages the flowers are sending out.  “Floral odour” also seems to be another lure.  But in contrast to what is seen in Orchids, it is the female bee fly that finds this odour attractive, suggesting we do not yet fully understand what has driven the REMARKABLE VARIATION IN THIS SINGLE FLOWER SPECIES.
Leaving us with a “complex, enigmatic and beautiful” flower, and some remaining questions about HOW IT CAME TO BE.
—————–Leslie Evans Ogden (BBC)     

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Flower power

Every zodiac sign is associated with a flower in God’s garden.
HoneysuckleARIES : The honeysuckle ——— Bees never resist the lure of the honeysuckle, its sweet scent and its honeyed nectar.  ARIES too tend to be the centre of attention, given your magnetism and charm.  But the honeysuckle is also a vine that clings to those around it and asks you the same this week, are you entwining yourself to persons and issues that aren’t your business ?  Choose your battles wisely.  The aroma of honeysuckle offers discrimination, it allows you to decipher the difference between true and false.  Honeysuckle also transforms anger into love and everyone knows how fiery the Ram’s temper is.
Poppy flowerTAURUS : The Poppy ——— Poppy as in popular : steadfast and devoted, you may not be sultry like Scorpio or fashionable like Aries but you are who everyone counts on as a true friend.  Your winning attributes are your simplicity, honesty and loving nature.  This week poppy asks you not to be stubborn or fixated on certain ideas but to go with the flow.  Certain concepts you are holding on to have become outdated and you need to change with the times.  TAUREANS can be tough.  The poppy seed (khus khus) has traditionally been used in Indian kitchens as cooling food.  Poppy oil is a natural painkiller.
LavenderGEMINI : The Lavender  ——- Like lavender landscapes green meadows with flecks of psychic purple, your creativity and intellect  contributes to the ideas of those around you and offers unique solutions.  Lavender asks you to make your health your first priority this week as you are ignoring aches and pains to get work on time.  Procrastination is bad in itself but with regards to health it can be fatal.  GEMINIS usually suffer from insomnia and stress-related ailments.  Sipping lavender tea diminishes hyperactivity and lighting a lavender-scented candle in your bedroom will help you to sleep better.
Iris flowerCANCER : The Iris —— Named after the Roman Goddess of the rainbow due to its iridescence, Iris is a flower that symbolises  majesty and royalty.  CANCERIANS too despite their initial introverted approach rule maternity and cardinal leadership.  This week you will feel threatened by some malice and spite but Iris reminds you that your position expects you to respond in a dignified manner.  Be practical, not emotional.  The perfume of Iris opens up your soul and your third-eye, encouraging the shy Cancer to come out of its shell.  Iris helps you seek out inner beauty and be true to yourself.
Marigold flowerLEO:  The Marigold  ——- Marigold is heady, rich and luxuriant.  Like LEO, it suggests a love for the finer things in life.  It is often wreathed into garlands offered to Hindu Gods.  Marigold gifts you  with the skills of extroversion and natural leadership.  The flower also reminds you to be gracious with those who are less fortunate than you this week.  You will have to walk that extra mile to help an acquaintance through troubled times.  You may feel selfish but your kind heart will get the better of you.  LEOS are more susceptible to rashes and skin breakouts and a tea made out of the petals of marigold can cure most skin ailments and oily complexions.
ChrysanthemumVIRGO :  The Chrysanthemum  ——– The Chrysanthemum is one of the most common and overlooked flowers in the Indian garden but it also has a simplicity and a durability that make it a popular choice among gardeners.  Like the chrysanthemum it is your resilience and your practicality that are your strengths.  VIRGO is called the virgin because you are not easily swayed by the lures of this world.  This week, Chrysanthemum urges Virgo to avoid complicated tactics to solving situations.  You will find easy answers if you keep it simple and minimalistic.  The Chinese steeped chrysanthemums, rock sugar and wolfberries in a kettle and sipped the tea as an antidote to heart attack.
Rose flowerLIBRA :  The Rose  ——- Renowned for its beauty, the rose is lesser known for its other virtues.  Its scent helps you to find balance which is especially beneficial  to LIBRA as you’re constantly confused.  Rose promotes artistic ability and encourages the sense of aesthetic.  It is also graceful and helps us to overcome the sense of awkwardness that a teenager experiences during adolescence.  Rose aske the LIBRAN to put themselves first this week rather than get involved in other’s dramas and get rewarded with ingratitude.  Have a hot bath with rose petals immersed in warm water.  It will balance you inner scales and help the perpetually lost Libran find a sense of direction.
Hibiscus flowerSCORPIO : The Hibiscus —– The SCORPIO perceptiveness is profound and intense but its energy can often be overwhelming and self-destructive, which is why Scorpio is represented by venom.  The antidote to calming your own vices can be found in the soothing Hibiscus.  Its scarlet petals represent your vitality and passion.  Hibiscus has been used in Ayurveda to aid digestion and provide cooling in summers which is ideal for the SCORPION constitution.  Hibiscus asks you to be gentle on yourself this week, to focus on your beauty and not on your flaws.  Hibiscus juice tastes almost like red wine and is used as a medicine to combat alcoholism.  Of all the signs, Scorpions are most susceptible to addiction.
DandelionSAGITTARIUS :  The Dandelion  ——– Horses love to snack on dandelion. They are an equine eatable.  Life is never boring around a SAGITTARIAN they are wacky and fun.  The dandelion is equally quirky among flowers, it looks like a fur-ball.  Strife can make the zany SAGITTARIUS boring and dandelion urges you to not to get too staid.  Stop taking things too seriously or get overly philosophical.  Embrace your inner child and let go of your worries.  Live freely.  Sagittarius often gets the sniffles, and dandelion tea naturally contains anti0allergens that can clear respiratory passages and offer relief to nasal blockages.
Jasmine flowerCAPRICORN :  The Jasmine  ——- CAPRICORNS are very competitive and take themselves too seriously.  Jasmine is light and floral., relieves stress and is renowned as an aphrodisiac.  This makes Capricorns and Jasmine the perfect combination, because jasmine negates all the Capricorn flaws.  Jasmine is the exotic flower of potency and tells Capricorn to  stop having doubts in their love-life and to be more trusting in their romantic relationships.  The Capricornian skin is most brittle to the effects of age and wrinkles.  Steep jasmine petals in sesame oil to make an exotic anti-aging oil.  Dab this on your face before you sleep and you will never grow old.
Orchid flowerAQUARIUS :  The Orchid  ——- The orchid is an aerial plant. It does not grow on soil like most plants but dangles off the bark of other trees and absorbs moisture from the air through its roots.  The orchid looks down on other blossoms and is a perfect representation of the AQUARIAN intellect and lofty thoughts.  However, orchid asks Aquarius not to be too haughty this week as you may rub a loved one the wrong way.  Accept that everyone has the right to choose their path and not everyone ascribes to your ideas.  Orchids can mimic other plants like vanilla, citrus and rose and their scents.
Lotus flowerPISCES : The Lotus  ——- The Lotus bears the secret knowledge of watery depths beneath much like PISCES.  It represents the Piscean intuition and sensitivity and the enlightenment that can be acquired from meditation and stillness.  This week, Lotus reminds Pisces that purity and perfection may seem unattainable to most but not to you.  Your watery constitution requires many nutrients that terrestrial foods do not provide.  Include lotus seed and water-chestnuts in your diet.
 ———–Nolan Lewis

Tulip Garden

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This Tulip Garden, is Asia’s largest Tulip Garden.  It was previously named as Model Floriculture Centre, Srinagar. It is spread over an area of about 12 hectares.  It is situate  on the foothills of Zabarwan Mountain Range, with an overview of the picturesque world-famous Dal Lake.
tulip_gardenThis garden was conceived, conceptualised and created by Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir in the year 2006-2007, in an aim to boost floriculture and advance tourism in the Kashmir Valley. —— 2 million Tulips adorn and add colour to 20 acres of the Kashmir landscape at 5,600ft altitude in the Tulip Garden.  It is a delightful sight ——– the Flower Bed —– sprawls all over the foothills of the towering Zabarwan Mountain Range.  The Tulip Garden is surrounded, in 3 sides, by the Nishat Bagh and Cheshmashahi Mughal Gardens of Srinagar.
Tulips7On March 29, 2012, Asia’s largest Tulip Garden was thrown open to visitors by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who was accompanied by his mother Molly Abdullah.
“The impact of this garden on tourism is evident from the fact that we have been forced to open it a week to ten days ahead of schedule,” Abdullah told reporters. H07TH_TULIPS_1420225fe said tourists were so keen to visit the garden that they could have broken in without waiting for the inauguration.  “The Tulip Garden has succeeded in bringing forward the tourist season in Kashmir by 2 months,” he said.
Although the Tulips are yet to reach full bloom, the floriculture department has planted 20 lakh bulbs over an area of 12 hectares, with 8 new varieties of the flower added.  The delicate Tulips, in different hues, are sent to markets across the country including Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Hyderabad.

Hanami

hanami

Hanami, also known as “flower viewing”, is a Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the “transient beauty of flowers”, “flower”, in this case, almost always meaning “cherry blossoms” (Sakura) or, less often, “plum blossom” (Ume).  From the end of March to early May, “Sakuras” bloom all over Japan, and around the 1st of February on the island of Okinawa.  The blossom forecast (sakura-zensen, literally, cherry blossom front ) is announced, each year, by the weather bureau, and is watched carefully by those planning Hanami, as the blossoms only last a week or two.

Kamogawa_hanami

This Cherry Blossom Festival is held at Shinto Shrines during the month of April.  Excursions and picnics, for enjoying flowers, particular cherry blossoms are also common.  Many drinking parties are often seen in and around auspicious parks and buildings.  In some areas, the Plum Blossom is also viewed as well, though these flower earlier than the Cherry Blossoms.

hanami night

In some places “flower viewing” parties are held on traditionally fixed dates.  This is one of the most popular event during spring.  Ikebana (flower arrangement) is also a popular part of Japanese culture and is still practised by many people today.  There are also games, folk songs, folk dances, parades, concerts, kimono shows, beauty pageant and religious ceremonies.

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A more ancient form of Hanami also exists in Japan, which is enjoying the Plum blossom (Ume) instead, which is narrowly referred to as Umemi (plum viewing).  This kind of Hanami is popular among older people, because they are more calm than the Sakura parties, which usually involve younger people and can sometimes be very crowded and noisy.

Hanami-Kyoto

Sakura, originally, was used to divine that year’s harvest as well as announce the rice-planting season.  The custom was originally limited to the elite of the Imperial Court, but soon spread to the common people as well.  The Hanami celebrations involve the preparation of special dishes like “dango” and “bento” and “sake” is drunk as part of the festivities.

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Smaller Hanami celebrations take place in Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines and China.  In the US, Hanami has become popular, because, in 1912, Japan gave 3,000 Sakura trees as a gift to the US to celebrate the nations’ friendship.  These trees were planted in Washington DC and another 3,800 trees were donated in 1965.  Theses Sakura trees continue to be a popular tourist attraction and, every year,  the National Cherry Blossom Festival takes place in the spring.

hanami japan

In Macon, Georgia, another Cherry Blossom Festival is celebrated every spring.  Macon is known as the “Cherry Blossom Capital of the World”, because 300,000 Sakura trees grow there.  In Brooklyn, New York, the “Annual Sakura Festival” takes place in May, at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  This festivity has been celebrated since 1981, and is one of the garden’s most famous attraction.

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Hanami is also celebrated in Finland, where people gather together to celebrate it in Helsinki.  Local Japanese people and companies have donated 200 Cherry trees, which bloom in mid-May.

Arnica

The anti-inflammatory no one told you about is Arnica.  How many times have you found yourself with a nasty looking black and blue bruise and very little patience for it to heal ?  Or, you’ve badly pulled a muscle in a quest to keep fit and are itching to get back on your feet quickly ?  Look no further, for the remedy lies in nature itself.
It’s an innocent looking thing : a pretty, orange-yellow, daisy-like flower —— one of the members of the sunflower clan.  Most commonly known as LEOPARD’S BANE, Arnica Montana, is a flower that packs more punch than you can ever imagine.  It is used by native Americans to treat muscular problems such as sprains.  It was prescribed for pain relief, for dislocations, bruises and also used as an antiseptic or wounds and insect bites.  19th and 20th Century European doctors also commonly used Arnica in much the same way.
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So, although people have long sworn by the magical flower, it’s really the fashionable lot that has re-catapulted the usefulness of Arnica in recent years.  A natural anti-inflammatory flower has been used to relieve muscular aches after fitness classes.  It’s anti-bacterial property can bring down swellings, black-blue bruises and bleeding after surgeries of all kinds.  It is also very popular with catwalk models, who use it to relieve inflammation, flush out toxins and for glowing skin.  Sports medical experts also hand out Arnica to speed up recovery of bruised and sprained players.  It can also provide relief from and act as a preventive agent against cramping.
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How do you use Arnica ?  Available in homeopathic pellet form —— where the tincture is diluted often into a base of acacia gum and the tiny pellets simply dissolve in a moment under the tongue.  This form is best for those looking to heal post-operative pain, muscular aches, sprains, bad bruises and even contusions.  Many swear by these pellets to relieve vertigo and car-sickness, as well as skin inflammation.
Arnica gel and cream preparations combat external swellings and insect bites and rashes on the body.  But it MUST NOT BE APPLIED DIRECTLY TO OPEN WOUNDS.  It is also available in a variety of shampoo and conditioning treatments, which aid in stimulating hair growth and prevent dandruff.  Tinctures of Arnica are used to cure throat infections, and are taken by those with low BP, those suffering from motion-sickness.  This form must be diluted in water before ingesting.  The flower is indigenous to North America and Europe and is also cultivated in North India.  However,, since it contains the compound HELENALIN, which is toxic if taken in large quantities.
Arnica SHOULD BE AVOIDED by THOSE WHO ARE PREGNANT, as well as those who suffer from HIGH BP, as it can over-stimulate their heart rates.
————– Ambika Behal.