a•pet•a•lous

Key West Field Guide, vegetable, vo•cab•u•lar•y

(adj.) having no petals

Diclesium / Anthocarp fruits of the Four O’Clock family

A different kind of flower

At only 2mm across, neither my 30x loupe nor my extension tubes helped me observe that there are no petals in this tiny bloom. The vibrant purple bowls are actually fused sepals that continue to stay beyond the blossom and stick to the ripened ovary which hides a single seed.

Fruits

A special kind of fruit

Beyond simply giving more heft to the fruit, the sepals develop tiny, but sticky, glands- turning the sole of your shoe, the foot of a pigeon, the fur of a cat into free taxis for some members of the Four O’Clock plant family. Or they can become potential death traps, like for this tiny fly stuck to the 2mm long fruit.

The fruits of this plant suffer from a bit of a scientific identity crisis. They can be called accessory fruits (because they involve a plant part other than just the ovary). They can be called anthocarps, because the fruit contains part of the perianth (in this case, the sepals). Or to be beautifully, nerdily precise, you can call it a diclesium: an indehiscent fruit surrounded by the persistent remains of the calyx from the scarlet spiderling Boerhavia coccinea.

Diclesium

Red spiderling fruit with sticky glands visible

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