Saturday, March 31, 2012

Crazy Plants: Gnetum

One species that is to be found in the genus Gnetum.
Gnetum is the genus with the most species in the Phylum Genotophyta. The phylum also includes such strange plants as Ephedra and Welwitschia. All are strange species that don't really fit into any other grouping. Though this plant is fairly obscure, where it does occur (parts of South America and Asia) it's sometimes cultivated for food. The seeds and young leaves are eaten. Fiber will also be made from the bark. The gum that comes form a species in Brazil is used to treat injuries such as muscle or tendon tears and supposedly reduces swelling. It is also used to treat headaches and those who are thin, weak, and not eating.

Gnetum seeds
They prefer soils that are neutral or slightly acidic. Thought the ground needs to be well-drained, a lot of nutrients are not necessary. The majority of the species are woody vines. The seeds the plants produced are usually rather bright shades of red, yellow, or orange and also usually fleshy. They resemble drupes such as cherries. It appears these species are not very well studied. What species exist today are remnants of a time when the Gentums were more common. amazingly, these plants are known to exchange genetic information with flowering plants such as petunias. How this is done isn't know, but there is likely some sort of vector involved.

Sources are University of Connecticut, Discover Life, and the Gymnosperm Database.  Images are from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons licenses: one, two.

No comments:

Post a Comment