|Jade vine - Strongylodon macrobotrys http://drawnassociation.net/|
If you have never before come across the Jade vine - Strongylodon macrobotrys then you are in for a real treat. It is truly one of the world's most bizarrely coloured flowers.
The jade vine is a relative newcomer as it was only discovered in 1854 by botanists in the United States Wilkes Exploring Expedition. They were exploring the dipterocarp forest of Mount Makiling on Luzon, the largest and most northern island in the Philippines, when it was first encountered.
|Jade vine - Strongylodon macrobotrys|
If the flower structure looks familiar, it is because it is from the leguminous family. This makes it a close relative to the humble bean.
In its native Philippines, the Jade Vine reach a height of more than 20 metres, and unlike most other vines that are pollinated by bats! It is thought the bats are attracted by the luminosity of the flowers in the tropical twilight, and they hang upside down on the raceme stalks to gorge themselves on the vast quantities of nectar available.
Curiously, on such a large plant, the pale-coloured blooms can be difficult to see in strong sunlight and could be overlooked if not for the fallen blooms below the vine. Fallen blooms change color as they dry out, from mint green to blue-green to purple.
Sadly, In the wild, the Jade Vine is considered vulnerable to extinction due to extensive deforestation. Originally the islands were almost completely forested, but a survey estimated that only 20 per cent of the forest remained by 1988. The speed at which the rainforest is vanishing adds a sense of urgency to protect the remaining habitat and research into the jade vine’s floral biology.
Why is the jade vine jade?
Now this gets very sciency, complicated, and involves some words that I do not completely understand, but here goes it. The unusual flower colouration displayed by the jade vine has been shown to be an example of co-pigmentation, a result of the presence of malvin (an anthocyanin) and saponarin (a flavone glucoside) at the ratio 1:9.
Under the alkaline conditions (pH 7.9) found in the sap of the epidermal cells, this combination produced a blue-green pigmentation; the pH of the colorless inner floral tissue was found to be lower, at pH 5.6. Experiments showed that saponarin produced a strong yellow colouring in slightly alkaline conditions, resulting in the greenish tone of the flower.
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