Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nymphaea persica

The SOLIFUGID POND-LILY (Nymphaea persica) was, until late in 1872, the subject of a zoological comedy of errors, for it was initially misconceived as an arachnid of the order Solifugae, hence its name. Its narrow, sparse and flimsy white petals do resemble the limbs and chelicerae of a camel-spider — even in their tendency to buckle slightly at certain junctions, as the joints of such an animal might if seen floating belly-up on the surface of a pond. In addition, the impressive length of the roots let it drift like an apparent free agent with no anchor to the mud below.

However, the Solifugid Pond-lily, having next to nothing in the way of leaves (they resemble small coins and are usually hidden beneath the petals), is far and away the most fragile of its family. Moderate rainfall is enough to collapse and drown one of the flowers (though they eventually resurface), and if any animal larger than a common fly should land on the corolla, the frail blossom will implode, causing plant and animal to sink together as quickly as a stone.

From: P. Hambunck Constanelle, Constanelle’s Global Flora, 4rd Ed. Mandaroeb & Sons, 1873: p. 481.