Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Portulaca cyclophylla

All Photos on this page courtesy of Attila Kapitany.

Portulaca cyclophylla Muell. (1890) is a very interesting species with spectacular flowers for its diminutive stature. In habitat, the thick, somewhat leathery leaves are opposite, almost circular, 6-10 mm in diameter, and grey or brown-coloured. Specimens often have a convex upper leaf surface, which is covered by a network of uneven reticulations (i.e. creases and fissures). The result is that the plants blend in perfectly with the gravelly soil surface in which they grow.

The underside of the leaves is usually convex, dark purple, finely reticulated with a leathery texture, and almost translucent.

Although stone mimicry is found most commonly in African succulent species, such as Lithops, it is quite rare in the Australian flora. It occurs in only a handful of species, most being in Portulacaceae.

"Can you see me?"
P. cyclophylla camouflaged against the stony surrounds.

Portulaca cyclophylla has seasonal branches that die back in dry conditions to a swollen perennial taproot. The plant re-shoots after good rains.

The species is similar in many respects to P. bicolor, but differs from that species by the significantly larger flowers and greater stamen count. The flowers of P. cyclophylla are up to 35 mm diameter, are 6-8 petalled and bright yellow, and on a pedicel about 1-1.5 cm long. The stamens are numerous and about half the length of the petals. The greatly exserted stigma has 6(-8) feathery lobes that are much higher than the stamens.

P. cyclophylla frequently shares its habitat with a more robust succulent, Calandrinia schistorhiza Morrison. Both species are largely absent from the Kimberley region, however there are a few sporadic records of P. cyclophylla from the Northern Kimberley region. The two species occur on arid gravel and sand plains in central Western Australia between Newman and Wiluna. They are most commonly found in the Gascoyne, Little Sandy Desert, Murchison, and Pilbara regions of the Eremaean Province.

Thank you once again to Attila Kapitany for his excellent photos!

All Photos on this page courtesy of Attila Kapitany.

1 comment:

Attila Kapitany said...

I actually love this plant. It is always one of the highlights when in Western Australia to come across it. I've spent weeks and weeks exploring for it and basically chances of finding it for the first time are almost zero until the flowers open. Then you drive along the roads and see it within metres of the road edge while driving. Mind you once your eyes have adjusted to the plants' cryptic nature, you can find them without flowers. Cheers, Attila