Monday, June 13, 2011

Teasel Phytotelmata

Teasel is a familiar roadside sight.
 Teasel plants are especially noticeable in the winter when their prickly seedheads are lightly capped with snow. 
Dipascus fullonum seed heads
This time of year the growing teasel plant is less noticeable but no less interesting. Teasel may even be semi-carnivorous.

 The reason the teasels are interesting to me this time of year, is their leaves are designed to hold water in little plant ponds or teasel cups. The term used for those plant ponds is phytotelmata (plant-held waters).  You can see in the photo below, how the teasel plant's leaf axils form a water-collecting cup.
Teasel plant's phytotelmata
 The water held in those cups supports a microscopic world.  There are insects that drown in the axil waters. These help provide nutrients for other living organisms that thrive in those tiny pools. I expect you'll find it worthwhile to examine the contents of some teasel phytotelmata with a hand lens and microscope.

Apparently the teasel plant may derive some nutritive benefit from the micro-community that lives in its water-collecting cups. See some research about those benefits in Carnivory in the Teasel.
Perhaps the teasel is a partially carnivorous plant.

1 comment:

  1. I always notice this plant in winter but didn't know what it looked like before it sported its spikey head.

    Interesting too about the water-collecting cups.

    Dana, you always give me something new to look for or at more closely with fresh eyes.