Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fingers blood

Yes, folks, like fingers of blood emerging from the earth, so are the beautiful spring buds of Paeonia cambessedesii a Paeoniaceae endemic to Mallorca, Menorca and Cabrera, whose mother came from Europe, its grandmother from Anatolia and two great-grandmothers from the plateaus of Central Asia.

In February, with the increase in daylight hours, the rhizome of the Paeonia cambessedesii stalks emerges forcefully with a very bright intense garnet color that look like bloody fingers of a hand emerging from the earth, like a buried person while still alive. Its striking color is due to its rich in anthocyanins, whose dark color absorbs sunlight and prevents the freezing of the buds by formidable frosts of Balearic winter. I recommend enlarge photos with a double click to appreciate its beauty.

The luminous pink of its petals breaks the green and gray monotony of the Balearic mountains.

Contemplating as much beauty one imagines how they had to be the springs of the plateaus of Majorca and Menorca mountains several millenia ago with immense carpets of endemic peonias illuminating the landscape and herds of Myotragus balearicus antelopes grazing the coriaceous leaves of the thorny cleared shrubs of the tops of the Serra de Tramuntana and smooth hills of Menorca, calls nun bearings. Impressive only broken silence by the murmur of the wind playing with the capricious forms of calcareous rocks and the branches of the disks, olive trees, junipers and oaks and by the quack of some hawk pilgrim, a crow or a black vulture completed the wonderful scene of that one paradise. My spirit becomes sad before the painful present reality. That one paradise of dream never will return to be what was. It is had lost for always. 

The bloody buds of February unfold in March and they are transformed into leaves and cocoons. The stems reach the 60 centimeters of height. The underside of the leaves remains dyeing of red, like the petiole, the rachis and the main veins of the limb of leaves, whereas the anverse acquires an intense bluish green color with metalised brightness.

As all the Paeoniaceae the Balearic paeonia is very poisonous. Its present strangeness in the nature not must then to the depredation of the ewes and the feral goats, but to the bad custom of people to take so beautiful the whole plants when seeing them to take them to its house and to seed them in flowerpots, which always ends up killing them or to take the flowers and to put it in a vase, which prevents the formation of the seeds of the following generation.

Young Paeonia cambessedesii of four years with its first flower of six petals at the beginning of April. 

Magnificent flower of adult Paeonia cambessedesii at the end of March. Each bud finishes in a unique flower in its end.

Same previous flower with its eight petals of an intense almost transparent pink color. The flowers measure between 6 and 12 centimeters of diameter and usually take between 5 and 10 petals, although generally the majority of flowers takes eight. The color goes from pink a very pale one to pink a purple one.

Another flower of Paenia cambessedesii at the end of March. The beauty of the petals with its texture of transparent paper of soothes and the graticule of its darker veins is impressive.

As I said you at the first the mother of the Paeonia cambessedesii arrived from Europe during the Messiniense period of Delayed Miocene. Years ago prestigious botanists realised a genetic study of all European and Asian paeonias. After analyzing the results and of comparing the variations in the different genetic markers they concluded that all the paeonias of the Mediterranean come from an Asian ancestral hybrid that formed several million years ago by the hibridization between two paeonias of the plateaus of central Asia. Thence this antediluvian hybrid was colonizing territories of all Asia and Japan, arriving until Near East. Soon it continued its expansion by all the coastal countries of the Mediterranean and all Europe. In each new conquered territory it was been differentiate in different species by successive adaptive mutations.

When one of its descendants arrived at the Tyrrhenian region in the heat of Messinian period colonized one after another one the then mountains of Corsica and Sardinia and thence jumped to Menorca and Majorca. After the later ascent of the level of the sea, the Balearics mountains became islands and tyrrhenian paeonia was isolated and underwent diverse adaptive mutations until transforming into our gorgeous Paeonia cambessedesii that at present only lives in Majorca, Menorca and Cabrera. In spite of having hundreds of species of paeonia in Europe and Asia, all of them have same both Asian ancestors.

The reproductive organs are formed by numerous stamens with purple filaments and yellow anthers loaded of pollen. In center they are between 3 and 9 feminine carpels, also purple, with the circinate stigmata receiving of pollen in its ends. Each stigma is united to its ovary through a heavy style. 

The reproductive system of the Paeonia cambessedesii has a feminine phase and a masculine one. During the first day they mature the feminine stigmata that wait for the visit of the pollenizer insects with their impregnated bodies of the pollen of other flowers. If the stigmata are not fertilized the first day they follow one or two more receptive days. Meanwhile the masculine anthers of stamens remain closed to avoid the autopollination. When the plant detects that their ovaries already have been fertilized, the stamens mature and the masculine anthers open so that the insects impregnate with pollen and they take it to other flowers. 

Two flowers of Paeonia cambessedesii of a gorgeous very pale pink color. We can see a pollenizer insect impregnating itself of pollen, which means that the reproductive system of the flowers is in masculine phase and their ovaries already have been fertilized.

Already fertilized ovaries initiating the maturation of seeds.

 At the end of August the seeds already are mature and the fruits open to disperse them.

Fruits already completely opened with the showy seeds of a shining black jet color.

A curious detail of the content of fruits are the aborted seeds that do not mature within the ovaries have not been fertilized, being reduced to a soft red bodies of flat faces.

In this picture they look great the aborted seeds attached to the inner wall of the ovary by a small nutritional stalk exactly like the black fertilized seeds.

Detail of the viable seeds of black color and the aborted seeds of red color.

The seeds of Paeonia cambessedesii must support several winters with strong frozen to surpass the internal lethargy that prevents its germination. A way to accelerate the process consists of stratifying the seeds in vegetal dampened earth within a closed package and to soon introduce them in a refrigerator during three or four months. The wide-awake cold to the embryo of its winter lethargy. At the beginning of the spring are seeded the seeds in their definitive place and usually germinate without problems to the few weeks. If they do not germinate in the first spring they do it in the following one. 

Small Paeonia cambessedesii just been born with its intense garnet color that it prevents that they congeal it to the frosts. Its childhood will last four or five long years and one spring it will give its first flower, the most beautiful of the Balearics mountains.

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