Journal archives for February 2021

February 02, 2021

Looking for Love, Vine - February Ecoquest

It's February and that means love is in the air, or more accurately for our Sarasota-Manatee February Ecoquest hanging from our trees as this month we are Looking for Love Vine! Love vine, Cassytha filiformis, is a parasitic vine native to Florida in the Lauraceae family, the same family as avocados. While the name “love vine” stems from its reputation as an aphrodisiac, this plant is anything but sweet! As a parasitic vine, it twines itself around host branches and then penetrates the host’s tissues with specialized appendages called haustoria that resemble tiny suction cups. Once attached, haustoria absorb water and nutrients from the host. While it does not typically kill the host plant, it can adversely affect the health of the tree and reduce its reproductive capacity.

If you want to learn more about Love Vine, where to find love, and the ecoquest check out the ecoquest page here!

Posted on February 02, 2021 05:55 PM by sarasota_manatee_ecoflora_sean sarasota_manatee_ecoflora_sean | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 04, 2021

New Invasive Plant Found in Sarasota - Wetland Nightshade Solanum tampicense

Citizen scientists and botanists have found a new invasive species Wetland Nightshade, in Sarasota County and the first time it has been recorded here on iNaturalist. This prickly invasive hails from Mexico and the West Indies and can form thick stands with a variety of growth patterns from small trees, to thick shrubs. It is listed as an invasive pest weed by the State of Florida and has hit many counties in Florida but not other states. It is important to be vigilant for new invasive species that may displace natives, are poisonous to humans or livestock, or be physically hazardous like the curved spines of the Wetland Nightshade. Also called Tropical Soda Apple like other Soda Apples it has many long curved spines on it's leaves and stems.

Check out the observation here for the plant found: Wetland Nightshade Observation.

That's all for this post. Be sure to keep joining our monthly ecoquests, searching for new and unusual plants, and always take photos of epiphytes as it's our longest running focus as a contributor to the Epiflora of the United States and Canada.

Posted on February 04, 2021 01:49 AM by sarasota_manatee_ecoflora_sean sarasota_manatee_ecoflora_sean | 2 comments | Leave a comment

February 15, 2021

Public Bioblitz Lemon Bay Preserve February 23rd

Marie Selby Botanical Garden's EcoFlora Team and Botany Department will be leading a public bioblitz to Lemon Bay Preserve on Tuesday, February 23rd, from 9AM-12PM at 6125 Osprey Rd, Venice, FL 34293. You must RSVP at ecoflora@selby.org space is limited.

This will be the first of a series of monthly bioblitzes to promote conservation and plant identification in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. If you are interested in attending this or future bioblitzes please email us at ecoflora@selby.org to attend. Bring a facemask, food, water, sunscreen/bug repellant, and a camera or smartphone to take photos for iNaturalist plus anything else needed for hiking. Feel free to bring family or friends but let us know how many and to be sure everyone has joined this project page.

The main goal of a bioblitz is to record as many plants and animals in this area as possible. Side goals for this bioblitz are to support the monthly eco quests this month being Looking for Love Vines, and the projects: Epiflora of the United States and Canada, and Mexican Bromeliad Weevils, with the latter two our continuing long term projects to support conservation.

Posted on February 15, 2021 05:40 PM by sarasota_manatee_ecoflora_sean sarasota_manatee_ecoflora_sean | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 19, 2021

Habit Highlight-Parasitism in Plants

When we hear the word “parasite,” often the first things that come to mind are very undesirable critters like bed bugs, roundworms, or my personal favorite, bot flies. Actually, plants can also be parasites, with about 4,500 species of parasitic plants found around the world, making up about 1% of all known flowering plants. A parasitic plant is one that acquires all or a portion of its growth needs from another plant host. These are not to be confused with epiphytes, which are plants that live upon other plants but do not remove nutrients from their hosts. Parasitic plants typically have specialized suction-cup like structures called haustoria (Photo 1) that penetrate the vascular system of their host and allow for siphoning off water and nutrients.

Photo 1: The Haustoria of the Love Vine.

In some cases, parasitic plants can be easy to recognize because they are the wrong color! We all know that plants are supposed to be green, right? That green color comes from the presence of chlorophyll, the pigment that facilitates the absorption of sunlight on its way into the photosynthetic pathway. A plant that does not have chlorophyll lacks the ability to produce its own food via photosynthesis. These are called holoparasites, plants that lack any ability to photosynthesize and are totally reliant on a host. One example in Florida are the dodders (Cuscuta spp.), twining vines in the Convolvulaceae or morning glory family with yellow or orange stems (Photo 2). As the vines contact the stems of their hosts, haustoria form and attach to the host. Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) are a non-green terrestrial herb in the Ericaceae or blueberry family found in temperate forests (Photo 3). These herbs emerge from the soil in a small group of thin, nodding, off-white stems that terminate in a single flower. These plants are actually myco-parasites, or parasites of fungi which themselves have a mycorrhizal association with the roots of trees. Through this complex association, Indian pipes are parasitic on the roots of woody trees via a “middle man.”

Photo 2: Left is the Cuscuta spp. Photo 3: is right is the Monotropa uniflora.

Some parasitic plants are green some or all of the time and can be harder to identify as being parasitic. Some examples in Florida include mistletoe (Phoradendron spp.) (See blog post https://selby.org/botanical-spotlight-mistletoe/), hog plum (Ximenia americana) and the subject of this month’s EcoQuest, love vine (Cassytha filiformis). All of these plants are classified as hemi-parasites because they have the ability to photosynthesize and can produce some of their own food. Mistletoe, an herbaceous stem parasite that can be found primarily but not exclusively in the canopy of oak trees, and hog plum, a common, shrubby root parasite on a number of woody host species, are always green and only supplement their nutrient needs from their hosts. Love vine on the other hand is almost always yellow, being fully parasitic on its hosts (Photo 4). However, when the vine is young, having not yet developed its host-penetrating haustoria, or if the host plants die, go dormant, or are otherwise unhealthy, love vine will begin to photosynthesize and take on a greener color.


Photo 4: of Love Vine Cassytha filiformes.

One famous parasitic plant is best known as the plant with the largest single flower in the world, the corpse flower (Rafflesia arnoldii) of Sumatra and Borneo. This parasitic plant not only lacks chlorophyll, it lacks any discernible stems, leaves, or roots, existing completely embedded within its host, the liana Tetrastigma. The only visible evidence of the presence of this plant is when the flower buds emerge and open to reveal flowers that can be a meter wide and smell of rotting flesh. The total abandonment of a free-standing physical form seems the ultimate evolution of the parasitic habit!
As you embark on this month’s EcoQuest, Looking for Love Vine, please take some time to appreciate the parasitism of plants as just one of the many complex adaptations and associations that exist between living organisms. When you find a love vine, follow the stem until you find the haustoria and you will be rewarded by witnessing an interaction that is often overlooked but more common than we realize! Love vine favors dry, sunny habitats so can be found in scrub and scrubby flatwoods, the open edges of dry hammocks, and in dry coastal areas on shrubs, trees, and even herbs and grasses. Be sure to look for the presence of oak galls on the undersides of leaves of live and sand live oaks and see if you can document the incredible interaction of the love vine seeking out and parasitizing these galls!

Written by Elizabeth Gandy

Posted on February 19, 2021 09:45 PM by sarasota_manatee_ecoflora_sean sarasota_manatee_ecoflora_sean | 0 comments | Leave a comment