Monday, May 12, 2008

Monoecious means 20 grains of rice.

I learned about freerice.com on the weekend, and started playing. It’s a word game where you pick the closest match for a given word from four choices. You play for about six or seven hours, and then, when the children start complaining they’re hungry, lock them out of the room and play for six or seven more. I don’t want to seem too much a nudnik, but I’m pretty good at it, probably because a lot of the words are either obscure animals (mouflon, caracal, eft), or share roots with terms used in taxonomic descriptions and the naming of plants and animals and ecological categories. Being a biologist with systematic leanings is finally paying off.

One word was monoecious, and the matching word was hermaphrodite, which is close enough I suppose. Any planty knows that a monoecious plant is one that has male and female organs on separate flowers. This is something I see every day as I go along our front walk, because we have a very grabby Akebia vine that is conspicuously monoecious.


Akebia quinata, chocolate vine.

I enjoy this vine, Akebia quinata, because it livens up an otherwise drab wall. It is commonly known as chocolate vine, because in the wild type the flowers are dark purple, and have a rich, almost chocolaty scent. The one here is a “white chocolate” (of course) cultivar. The larger flowers are female, the smaller ones male.


It doesn’t grow very fast where we have planted it (and it's in a container), but this vine, native to China and Japan, can be a very invasive, smothering groundcover if it becomes naturalized elsewhere. Although contained, ours will lean out to ensnare postal workers and the paperboy.


The inflorescences are racemes, and commonly there is a single basal female flower with a number of male flowers more distally.

Now back to the game.

9 comments:

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

I had to stop by when I read the name of your blog. Great.

Debbi

Hugh said...

Thanks! And thank you for visiting.

BerryBird said...

That free rice game is seriously addictive.

Hugh said...

BerryBird, Sorry, I can't respond to your comment because I'm too busy playing free rice. I'm in danger of becoming sesquipedalian.

Help.

Garden Lily said...

Oh my gosh, I got lost in that time black-hole when I first discovered freerice.com. I have never dared return.

I guess I'm in a similar state, here reading episode after episode of your Interpreter series, until my eyes hurt. And totally forgot - at 10PM - to put the kids to bed!

I'm now officially "follow"ing your blog, so I can enjoy it many many more times. Off to put the kids to bed now!

Hugh said...

Thanks, Garden Lily! I've added you to my blogroll too.

Da Ggerg said...

"Any planty knows that a monoecious plant is one that has male and female organs on separate flowers"

Actually you have it reversed. Monoecious means that both the male and female reproductive parts are on the same plant (mono = 1) whereas dioecious plants (di = 2) have male and female organs on separate plants (e.g. most pine trees).

Hugh said...

Da Ggerg,
I think we're saying the same thing.
I didn't say they were on separate plants. I said they were on separate flowers( on the same plant; I was talking about a single vine).

Da Ggerg said...

Hi Hugh,
yes it is true that a plant that has separate male and female flowers on the same plant is monoecious. Though not commonly used, one that has both male and female parts on the same flower (a perfect flower) is also monoecious. The point is are the male and female parts on the same plant. If yes, monoecious. If no, dioecious.

Really these 2 terms apply to other plants besides flowering plants (moss, fern, pines etc) and has to do with where the male and female gametes (sperm and egg) are produced (same or different plant).

Cheers