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Euphorbia with False Flower

Euphorbia cyathophora

Description:

I found 4 of these little plants growing wild in a grassy field. When I took a picture of the "flower" I realized that it wasn't a flower at all, just an illusion of one! The tiny white true flowers have long stamen (or pistol) and emerge from small 3-lobed green pods in the center of the plant (pictures 3-5). The true flowers of Euphobias are reduced to only the essential male or female organs. In order to attract pollinators in an economical manner, it creates a fake flower at the base of its own leaves. If an adjacent leaf is small, the entire leaf turns red. If the leaf is large, a triangular petal shaped area turns red close to the actual flower pods (picture 2). It doesn't even have to invest in special bracts. I think this is just fascinating and have never seen anything like it. The tiny flower pods are about 5mm in diameter, making the flowers themselves practically unnoticeable. The flower pods proceed to turn into relatively large fruit pods which are tri-lobed and contain 3 white seeds (picture 4). Each flower pod also has an odd sucker-like structure on one side for which I cannot come up with a logical reason for its presence (Pictures 4 & 5). The third picture shows a plant just starting to flower with the formation of the "flower illusion" just beginning. I pinched off a seed pod to open it and the plant immediately pumped out a large drop of a milky latex, which happens with all Euphorbias. The latex is toxic, especially to the mucous membranes and is an obvious deterrent for herbivores. The plant grows low to the ground, no higher than 15 cm. Family Euphorbiaceae.

Habitat:

Grassy field, semi-rural residential area, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, 2,200 meters.

Notes:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:... http://www.conabio.gob.mx/malezasdemexic...

1 Species ID Suggestions

Machi
Machi 9 months ago
Spurge/Poinsettia
Euphorbia sp. Euphorbia - Wikipedia


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2 Comments

LaurenZarate
LaurenZarate 9 months ago

Thank you so much Machi!

Machi
Machi 9 months ago

I am not familiar with plants in Mexico, but hopefully this helps. I think maybe Euphorbia cyathophora or Euphorbia heterophylla after going down the species list on wikipedia but I didn't go down the full list, just the one in the link. If you want to check the full list, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Eu...

LaurenZarate
Spotted by
LaurenZarate

Chiapas, Mexico

Lat: 16.71, Long: -92.61

Spotted on Oct 6, 2018
Submitted on Oct 13, 2018

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