Paepalanthus stellatus

Today’s photographs are courtesy of Dr. Marcelo Trovó, a plant systematist in the Instituto de Biociências at the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil. I became aware of this species after browsing through the latest issue of Systematic Botany where Dr. Trovó and a colleague, Paulo Sano, published a paper entitled, “Five New and Narrowly Distributed Species of Paepalanthus Section Diphyomene (Eriocaulaceae) from Central Brazil” (Systematic Botany (2011), 36(3):610-620, doi: 10.1600/036364411X583600). Dr. Trovó generously shared his photographs of this newly-described species (by him) after I sent a request to him yesterday. Thank you, Dr. Trovó!

Eriocaulaceae is typically a pantropical family, though some representatives grow in temperate areas. Of the 1200 or so species in the family, approximately 550 are in Paepalanthus, making it the most biodiverse extant group. I tried to sleuth the meaning of the name Paepalanthus, and while -anthus is easy (“flower”), Paepal- is not so readily found in my available resources. Assuming that the name comes from the Greek word Paipale as some suggest, then I think Paepalanthus means “meal-flowered” or “particle-flowered” (Paipale is somehow related to pollen and flour meal). For the etymology of the epithet of today’s species, stellatus, I’ll simply quote Trovó’s paper “…refers to the numerous white capitula arranged in an umbellate inflorescence, resembling a star-like constellation”.

Paepalanthus stellatus is found only in open savannas dominated by grass in small areas of Goiás. As photographed here, it can be found in dense populations of over 100 individuals, but as it is known from very few locations in a small geographic area, it can be considered critically endangered (PDF) according to IUCN Red List criteria.

Growing to 85cm tall, from the basal rosette of leaves (typically persistent) emerges a reproductive axis. At the top of the axis, anywhere from 40-400+ scapes from 13-25cm long emerge, each tipped with an obconic capitulum. The capitula each contain approximately 55 flowers (about 50 of these pollen-producing, and 5 pistillate). The staminate, or pollen-producing, flowers are mature in March, while pistillate flowers reach full maturity in April.

Paepalanthus stellatus
Paepalanthus stellatus
Paepalanthus stellatus
Paepalanthus stellatus

11 responses to “Paepalanthus stellatus”

  1. Irma in Sweden

    The fourth photo looks like a field of aliens! What wonderful structures in the plant world you show us every day.

  2. Earl Blackstock

    Thank you for once again taking me to places I never would have seen and information I never would have known without this wonderful site.

  3. phillip

    …a Peacock plant…!

  4. Stuart Adank

    LOVING the botanically wild nomenclature to describe such an authentic plant individual!
    Hot Plant

  5. Van

    Ah, so that’s what that is. Thank you.

  6. Elizabeth Revell

    The fourth photograph looks like tiny starburst fireworks going off all over the field of green.

  7. Svetlana

    Endangered? Why not sell seeds?!
    I want some! :))

  8. Diana Ferguson

    Magnificent – once again can see something amazing from far away. Thanks you!

  9. sue

    Thankyou once more I also have been transported away
    to another part of this beautiful world we visit for such a short time.

  10. elizabeth a airhart

    show girl hats delightful and interesting would they like fl
    are there light poles in the background fourth picture
    thank you nature is a wonderment

  11. OrchidGrowinMan

    I had never seen this!
    It’s even cooler than Eriocaulon, which I have for years been trying to get someone to grab me some seeds of.
    I think Eriocaulon, and maybe this too, could be attractive specimens for pot culture. At least _I_ think they’re interesting.
    Why is it so often true that people living where a plant is common (like Eriocaulon) do not see any value to it, and can’t understand that anyone else would?

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