Manihot grahamii

The plant featured in today's photo, Manihot grahamii, sits about 4 metres from the entrance to our Physic Garden, in a large and Scotch thistle-filled concrete basin. As I walked toward the slope of the Alpine Garden in search of a different specimen one day early last week, I chanced upon each of this plant’s modest, half-concealed flowers in the act of hosting a single, silent honeybee. For reasons that require little elaboration, my trip to the Alpine Garden took somewhat longer than I had anticipated.

In the past two months, we have twice featured members of the quite large Euphorbiaceae (spurge family), the entries for which you can access here (17 June) and here (13 July). Manihot is a genus of about 98 species included in both the Subfamily Crotonoideae and, along with the spurge nettle (Cnidoscolus stimulosus), the Tribe Manihoteae. The genus is perhaps best known for one of its species, Manihot esculenta or cassava, which is commonly cultivated and treated as a staple crop throughout the tropics, particularly in the warm South American regions to which it is native.

Manihot grahamii—variously known as Graham's cassava and hardy tapioca—is a self-pollinating, cold hardy herbaceous shrub or tree that quickly grows to a height of between 3 and 5 metres when exposed to full sun or partial shade. It is native to the eastern half of South America, from Brazil through Uruguay and Paraguay to Argentina. In today’s photo, the plant's small, dangling flower, which is equipped with 5 purple-tipped petals, is set against a cluster of powerful dehiscent capsules that can project seeds no inconsiderable distance away from the parent plant. While the singularity of my encounter remains somewhat intact, in the interim I've learned that honeybees are known to adore these flowers, and that the concentration I witnessed was by no means unprecedented.

Manihot grahamii

13 responses to “Manihot grahamii”

  1. Jackie

    That flower is such a lovely surprise. I love the graceful understatement.

  2. Jeanne Perreault

    Isn’t it wonderful to see a honeybee? My garden in Calgary has had almost none this summer.

  3. He Who Lives With Yankees

    I’m a master gardener but need a book on botanyspeak. Can you name a good basic Botany 101 textbook that could help me better understand the wonderful write-ups here? You are welcome to email with any suggestions. Thanks. And keep up the great work here at BPoD!

  4. Fritz Kollmann

    Botany in a Day by Thomas J. Elpel is a great introductory book.

  5. Ginny (in Maine)

    I would add Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon.

  6. onlyheaven

    I wonder if it would be practical/possible to plant this in California? As most of you probably already know, honeybees worldwide are disappearing — the population is windling & experts are still perplexed with many theories but none yet concrete. One theory is that the decrease may have something to do with disruption in their food supply. It would be great if more people can help plant honeybee-friendly plants & flowers to help this problem. And if this theory isn’t valid, then you’ll just get to enjoy them in your garden 🙂 This particular is quite interesting — does anyone know if it will prosper in southern California’s climate??

  7. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Thank you both for the suggestions for Botany books.

  8. elizabeth a airhart

    a sign beware of this plant should be posted
    www .hsu . edu has a fine page on this plant
    and has a page on the non-native
    plants of arkansas plus a number of
    other web sites from countries world wide
    thank you as always

  9. Cambree

    Oh! I love seeing a bee at work. What a great photo.
    This little flower and plant is very neat. I also love eating Cassava too.

  10. Pam Crider

    Spoken like a true gardener! My moments passing through the garden, often last hours.

  11. Dom


  12. Isidoro de Fenix

    Muy buena noticia por las abejas y por mí que soy apicultor.
    Plantamos 12 de estos arbolitos pero no por las abejas, sino para probar su semilla como sumistro de biodiesel.
    Espero “matar” dos pájaros de un tiro.

  13. Helen

    I live in Queensland Australia. I share this shrub with my neighbour. It does attract an abundance of Honey bees . But its seeds germinate very quickly and grow quickly. It is dropping foliage alot of the time too. To me it seems like a weed in our garden environment.

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