A Friday Observation

Last week was finals week here at PSU. At the end of last week the mass exodus from State College began, with thousands of undergrads leaving town. After a few rounds of graduations this week State College will turn into a sleepy summer academic town (to the delight of grad students).

umbel

Figure 1. Umbel.

On Friday I walked around campus taking plant pictures. In the Alumni Gardens I observed an ornamental Allium species. The plant has an umbel inflorescence type, which means the pedicels have a common point of attachment and they are normally the same length. In the case of the Allium this results in a cluster of flowers that looks like a globe. See Figure 1 for a sketch I drew of an umbel (left) and a line diagram (right) to illustrate the pedicel attachment.

One of the Allium plants in the Alumni Garden stood out. And this was due to one ambitious pedicel. You see, this pedicel decided to shoot for the stars. Not content to simply be part of the sphere, this pedicel towered over its peers. The flower on that pedicel hovered over the rest of the inflorescence.

umbel1

The ambitious flower.

When I noticed this I felt compelled to chastise the little nonconformist. “You should be more umbel” I said, though secretly I admired its audacity.

That audacity has a consequence, however. You’ll notice a bee on the umbel, pollinating away. Well, in all likelihood the flower on the long pedicel will not be visited by the bee because it is not easy to reach. The result of this is that the flower will not be pollinated nor will its genes be passed on. Essentially the nonconformist flower traded a season of glory for everything. It will live on in this photograph alone.

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Filed under Horticulture, Thoughts

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