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Chlorophytum comosum seeds

1 March 2012

You see spiderplants everywhere in houses and offices, but how often do you see them produce seeds from the flowers? As you see here there are six seeds which developed in pairs in an attractive pod (well, I like it!) which splits open as it dries.

The seeds were ripe in February, but the plant flowered in late November. I suppose in South Africa where they are from they are probably insect (beetle?) pollinated, but I pollinated this myself with another flower. Of course!

Spider plants have some interesting features. They are known as being useful for filtering air.

Plants have plastids which are probably similar to mitochondria in origin, formerly free-living bacteria adopted into a symbiotic relationship with the cell. [see various  Wikipedia entries and Liu article for a more detailed version of what follows]

Most angiosperms (flowering plants) have maternal plastid inheritance, while gymnosperms (broadly conifers) inherit plastids from the male gamete – the pollen.  Chlorophytum comosum is unusual as about 50% of  its pollen grains show the potential for biparental plastid inheritance, while the rest have maternal plastid inheritance.

Pollen grains from different individuals of C. comosum all exhibited this variability. […] As there is a considerable discrepancy between the exclusion and duplication of plastids, resulting in plastids with opposite fates occurring simultaneously in C. comosum, we propose that the species is a transitional type with a mode of plastid inheritance that is genetically intermediate between the maternal and biparental modes.

Liu Y, Zhang Q, Hu Y, Sodmergen. Heterogeneous pollen in Chlorophytum comosum, a species with a unique mode of plastid inheritance intermediate between the maternal and biparental modes. Plant Physiol. 2004 May;135(1):193-200. Epub 2004 Apr 30.

Did you know however that Chlorophytum comosum is very good at taking cadmium from soil, so much so that it has been suggested recently that it could be a useful plant for decontaminating soil that has been poisoned?


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