Plainly Beautiful Anthers

Many plant genera have beautiful anthers, so conspicuous and handsome as to be the showiest aspect of the flowers.  In two notable cases, botanists were compelled to make the point in writing.  Both are genera that start with “calli” – which tells you something about these plants will be beautiful.  

One genus is Calliandra, a natural group of shrubs related to the Mimosas.   Like Acacia, Albizia, Prosopis, and of course Mimosa, these plants are distinguished by their prominent stamens.  Each handsome flower cluster is a tight head of flowers with very modest sepals and petals and long, colorful stamens. 

Calliandras betray their relationship to other members of the bean family when fruiting, as each flower is capable of producing a single legume.  But of course the foliage is equally revealing.  Leaves are finely divided (pinnately compound), looking pretty clearly like other members of the family.

Botanists would imagine the name translates precisely as beautiful stamens (calli = beautiful; androx = male floral parts).  Curiously, you can run into Calliandra in recent websites, suggested as a girls name by authors who tell us the name is derived from ‘kalos andros’ (a Greek phrase meaning lovely one). Thus a flower name that means beautiful stamens seems to have become a popular name for girls.

Confusingly-similar in name, and somewhat of the same appearance are Bottlebrushes, the Callistemons (calli = beautiful; stemon = thread, i..e. stamen), another group of plants with very showy stamens.  They are easily spotted as related to Eucalyptus and Myrtus by the inferior fruit, the simple, somewhat opposite leaves, and their multiple showy stamens.  Callistemon, however has its own tricks.  Flowers develop laterally along growing stem tips, forming an inflorescence that looks like one of those testtube-cleaning brushes hanging around labs all over the county (and now provided in miniature to clean your own re-usable drinking straws).  

An inflorescence is not the end of the story for stems, however.  With a new period of growth, the stem tip takes off again, and after producing a reasonable length of vegetative growth, goes through another spate of flowering.  So you can trace back along branches and discover collars of old fruit documenting various epochs of flowering activity.

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