Leaf of the Day: Bat Leaved Passionflower

Today is the first day of summer in Orlando. Half way through the year, the longest day. I am thinking about how long the days will be in the UK this week. Light at 4.33am and not dark until 16 hours and 38 minutes later. I love the light, here we have three hours less, with dawn at 6.28 am.

Today I also spent too long at Leu and not enough time at the drawing board but I did find my bat leaved passionflower again, Passiflora coriacea. As you can see it is extraordinary, it is leaf shaped but sideways on. It is also slightly ironic, on the lightest day, to talk about creatures of the night but this is an excellent opportunity to introduce not only the bat leaved passionflower but also the delightful nectar feeding bats who are instrumental in the pollination of many flowers, including some passionflowers.
How you feel about bats is up to you but I personally like them very much. They are the only flying mammal, that in itself is amazing.
Bats, apart from doing the very good deed of hoovering up mosquitoes are important pollinators of many plants, amongst which are bananas and quite a few passionflowers. Bat pollinated passionflowers all have flowers which hang down, open late in the afternoon and have anthers which are angled in such a way as to brush the top of the head of a visiting bat with pollen. The bats need to visit the flowers often as their metabolism uses up energy very fast and in response the flowers make sure the nectaries are topped up regularly.

Here is a beautiful photograph of a nectar feeding bat from a learned article from the University of Arizona here about the importance of pollinators whose conclusion is that:
Migratory nectar-feeding bats, hummingbirds and resident bee populations are demonstrably at risk due to burgeoning human populations and changing landuse patterns

So spare a kind thought for these funny little creatures, join a bat conservation group or just lean more about them. There is a good site here Bat Conservation International. and to learn more about passionflowers and bats there is an excellent site here at http://www.passionflow.co.uk/


Bat Leaved Passionflower

Leaf of the Day: Passion Flower

Today I have been continuing the finished leaf paintings, so little time for the blog or much else really. This is number 5 leaf, a little bilobed passionflower leaf.
It is another beautifully shaped leaf and of course the passionflowers are the most extraordinary pieces of plant architecture. For now though, just the leaf.
This particular leaf has little yellow spots running along the blade, which after some research I discovered are called ‘extra floral nectaries‘.
Their function seems to be to attract useful insects who in return for a drink of sweet nectar prey on any plant-eating pests, thus functioning as ‘bodyguards’ in another mutually beneficial insect/plant arrangement.
Many species of ants are found in association with plants having extra floral nectaries and interestingly, it seems that vines in particular have developed these refreshment stations, their evolution and selection occurring as a result of ants using the vines frequently as natural pathways into the forest canopy.

I am not sure what particular species this leaf is from, as I only have a small piece without flowers, but there are many many different types of passion flowers growing in Florida. One I have yet to see is the batleaf passionflower ,

or the “Maypop” which is quite a common roadside weed, in the South East USA where it sprawls over ditches and open fields. I have found two explanations for its name. One that it ‘pops’ out of the ground in May and another that the pods, which are edible, make a loud popping noise when you stand on them.

These and more photos from from Daves Garden

I will return to these beautiful plants when I get round to painting the flowers.

Passionflower Leaf