Butcher’s Broom – Flowers That Grow on Leaves?

June 17, 2009
The fruits and false leaves of Ruscus aculeatus, or butchers broom.

The fruits and false leaves of Ruscus aculeatus, or butcher's broom.

Butcher’s broom, whose stems were once supposedly bundled together by butchers in Europe to sweep the gunk off their cutting boards, is today widely peddled as a treatment for a variety of venous problems such as hemorrhoids and varicose veins. Its medicinal properties have apparently been recognized for more than 2000 years, and its long European history has given it a variety of names; it is also known as box holly, kneeholy, knee holly, kneeholm, pettigree, sweet broom, and Jew’s myrtle. It also occasionally goes by its scientific name, Ruscus aculeatus.

Vein-healing properties and a tonf of names, however, are not the coolest things about this plant (at least to me). Butcher’s broom’s most evolutionarily odd feature is its complete lack of leaves. Yeah, those “leaves” in the picture above are not leaves at all but are rather “cladophylls,” or highly modified stems that have been flattened to essentially serve the purpose of a leaf.

Flowers and fruits therefore grow on the cladophylls themselves, making for a very odd looking plant!

The flowers of butchers broom grow in the center of the cladophylls.

The flowers of butcher's broom grow in the center of the cladophylls.

A close-up of a flower.

A close-up of a flower.

Large fruit also grow from the centers of the cladophylls.

Large fruit also grow from the centers of the cladophylls.

A close-up of a Ruscus aculeatus fruit

A close-up of a Ruscus aculeatus fruit

More information:

Butcher’s Broom [Drugs.com] – This page has a lot of useful information about Butcher’s broom, particularly for those of you interested in its medicinal properties.

Ruscus aculeatus [Wikipedia] – Not much info here, but a good list of “synonyms” for butcher’s broom.

Image Sources:

The Peterson Farm – My new (short term) obsession (Image: unknown)

Floral Images – Ruscus aculeatus (Image: J R Crellin, 2006)

inzinOnline – Pungitopo (Image: unknown)

The Adventist Forum – Word of the Day (Image: unknown)

Legambiente Archipelago Tuscana – La flora (Image: unknown)

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Yeti Roots – Roots That Grow In Snow

June 17, 2009
Corydalis conorhiza is the first plant known to grow roots into snow

Easily confused with the hair of a shedding yeti, the "snow roots" of Corydalis conorhiza are the first of their kind.

During the long, freezing Caucasian winters that drive most plants into fruitless dormancy, Corydalis conorhiza busies itself with growing unique “snow roots” that suck nutrients from the snow above it. The snow roots, which were discovered by botanists exploring the Caucasus mountains in southern Russia, are almost more similar to the filaments of fungi mycelium than they are to the normal ground roots of the plant. They are extremely thin and rot away almost immediately after the protective layer of snow melts away from them.

Covered by snow for most of the year, C. conorhiza has only a short summer growing season to produce shoots and flowers. The scientists who discovered the plant determined that the snow roots absorbed nitrogen, an essential yet scarce factor for plant growth, from the snow they grew in, allowing them to make the most of their few months of summer.

The flourishing flowers and shoots of a C. conorhiza, perhaps nourished by its snow roots

The flourishing flowers and shoots of a C. conorhiza, perhaps nourished by its snow roots

Note –  Here’s a challenge for you Wikipedia fans:

There’s no Wikipedia page for Corydalis conorhiza! I don’t know about you, but I think that that’s unacceptable. Go out and make a Wikipedia page! I would do it myself, but, um, I want to leave the honor to one of you. Yep.

More information: Everything here pretty much comes from the New Scientist article.

Unique roots let plant forage in the snow [New Scientist]

Snow Roots [Isegoria]

Image Sources:

New Scientist – Unique roots let plant forage in the snow (Image: V. G. Onipchenko)

Isegoria – Snow Roots (Image: unknown)