Living stones, Turtle shell and Elephant's foot : nature is very mysterious! Learn more about the odd plants you can find at the Jardin botanique.
This Beaucarnea recurvata is one of the oldest plants at the Jardin botanique de Montréal. In 1938, it arrived from Paris, France, as seeds. Therefore, it is over 80 years old. Wow! But did you know that there are several other plants that develop a caudex, this funny structure that allows them to store water? We can think of the Desert rose (Adenium obesum), its beautiful flowers looking quite a bit like those of roses, and its very strange trunk, often twisted and puffy. There is also the Turtle shell (Dioscorea elephantipes), whose caudex strangely resembles the back of a turtle. These plants, as well as the Elephant's foot, are found in deserts and very hot locations, because their caudex allows them to weather drought seasons.
Kalanchoe x laetivirens
Mother of thousands
Did you know that many plants can reproduce other than from seeds? This Kalanchoe produces several identical copies of itself (clones!) on the edges of its leaves. This is called plant propagation, the ability to reproduce from a part of plant tissue. This is possible thanks to the totipotency (phew, what a big word!) of certain plant cells. These indeed have the capacity to regenerate a complete individual that is identical to the mother plant. It is also thanks to the totipotency of plant cells that it is possible to detach a Kalanchoe tomentosa leaf (also called panda plant because of its hairs), to lay it on the ground and then observe the development of a whole new plant (another copy!). This is called cuttings. You can try it at home with Kalanchoes but also with several other plants such as Rex begonias or African violets. Find out more about plant cuttings!
In their natural environment, Living stones are practically buried in the ground. Only the upper flat surface of the two leaves is visible. This surface is called a “window” because it is rather transparent and allows controlled entry of the sun's rays. Some Lithops, however, have marbled patterns on their windows, looking a lot like pebbles. Below these windows are chlorophyll tissues. They are green thanks to chlorophyll, and they absorb light energy to perform photosynthesis. This "fenestration" allows the plant to capture a strong light and distribute it through its tissues to avoid burning. Lithops are not the only plants to have this adaptation; Fenestraria rhopalophylla and some plants of the genus Haworthia also have this particular characteristic. The shape of plant leaves can be very diverse and sometimes... rather strange!
Winged tropical pitcher plant
Do you think this carnivorous plant has a mouth? The answer is no : carnivorous plants have no mouths, no jaws, let alone teeth. In Nepenthes, the leaves are modified (transformed) in order to attract, capture and digest insects. So if carnivorous plants don't have a mouth, do they have stomachs and intestines? No, they don't! Nepenthes digest insects (or any other living organism trapped) with the help of a sticky liquid located at the bottom of the trap; this liquid contains enzymes which ensure digestion. Only the insect's nutrients will be absorbed by the plant. Too hard to digest, the insect's exoskeleton will remain in the trap!