The King of the Flowering Plants

The King of the Flowering Plants

Fresh leaves!

Fresh leaves!

“The King of Flowering Plants” follows “Chechnya” and “Violence”.  A blog allows this.  With no external editor, I can write and publish whatever comes to me, whenever it does.  I am under no obligation to create coherence or to justify a lack thereof.

Nevertheless, I hope I’m not straining in saying that the ability to appreciate beauty in a plant is not so different from the capacity to see “that of God” in another person.  That appreciation and that seeing then make it far more difficult to harm them.  All are part of a beautiful creation, and we are one with everything.

This tree caught my eye when walking on the grounds of LaSalette Seminary in Silang, Cavite,  south of Manila.  How could it not?  Clumps of bright orange flowers burst from the trunk and branches.    The botanical term for this is “cauliflory”: flowers that bloom on tree trunks rather than from the buds at the ends of twigs and branches.  This means, of course, that the trunks will also bear the fruit.   Take a look at the previous post, “Jackfruit and Jumping Worms”, and you’ll see in the photos another example of cauliflory.

This is a trait we don’t see much in the Northeastern United States.  The only example I can think of is the redbud (Cercis canadensis) which rarely grows up here.  It is far more common in the Southeast, turning the mountainsides pink in early spring.  A beautiful specimen used to grow on West Street in Keene, but unfortunately it was cut down for a parking lot.

Dr. William Gruezo, the author of a monumental work on the flora of the Mount Makiling area in Los Baños, Philippines, has been kind enough to identify this tree as  Saraca thaipingensis, “the king of the flowering plants”.   When I approached the King and looked closely, I noticed ants swarming over the clusters of flowers.  Closer examination showed a very small insect living on the flowers and leaving its cast skins on the flower stems.  My guess would be an aphid, as ants tend aphids on plants in our gardens, but this looks like no aphid I’ve ever seen.  Its back curves up on each end and tiny spikes protrude from the exoskeleton, like a miniscule relative of Stegosaurus.

Just before I left the Philippines, Lina and I returned to LaSalette.  Saraca had another surprise for us:  fresh leaves just emerged from terminal buds.  You’ll see them in the second photo, hanging fresh green and pink from the ends of the branches.

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