Hairs on Plants

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richj20 Veteran Member • Posts: 7,575
Hairs on Plants

A long time interest for me are the various types of hairs on plants. Hairs, or properly, hair-like structures (Botanical name, 'Trichome', from Greek, meaning 'cover with hair') are seen on roots, stems, leaves, and flower parts. They have many functions. From Wikipedia:

  • The size, form, density and location of hairs on plants are extremely variable in their presence across species and even within a species on different plant organs. Several basic functions or advantages of having surface hairs can be listed. It is likely that in many cases, hairs interfere with the feeding of at least some small herbivores and, depending upon stiffness and irritability to the palate, large herbivores as well.
  • In windy locations, hairs break up the flow of air across the plant surface, reducing transpiration. Dense coatings of hairs reflect sunlight, protecting the more delicate tissues underneath in hot, dry, open habitats.

I've had several ongoing projects over the years in looking at/photographing hairs, and am starting to put together some series.

My first series deals with flowers. Zoom in on the Original to see details.

First, a flower that does not have hairs.

California Lilac, showing various stages of the flower emerging from a bud which is protected by sepals with tiny hairs. The flower stalk elongates and the flower forms with no hairs.

Cactus are good examples of flowers with hairs.

This San Pedro Cactus flower bud is covered with protective hairs.

As the flower forms, hairs continue attached to the green sepals which protect the white petals inside. These are very thin, fine hairs.

A firecracker cactus with newly formed buds covered with thin white hairs, and a mature flower with hairs remaining on the floral tube. "Cleisto-" means "closed" and refers to the end the tube, which is normally closed. A few will barely open enough to let the stamens protrude.

Hairs also appear on the margins of flower petals.

Tiny Henbit flower, about 2cm long with cute hairs on the top.

Scarlet sage. I've not found a suggestion as to the purpose of these hairs all along the edges. You need a loupe to look up close to see the hairs, for they are not visible when walking past the plant, being just 1mm in length at the most.

These flowers are in the milkweed family. This species starts with a flower bud puffed up like a bladder, which slowly unfolds.

Sometimes called a 'Starfish' flower with a rather beautiful appearance. A common bottle fly in the center.

These are the longest hairs I've seen on a flower.

Another common name is 'Carrion Flower' due to the rather stinky smell put out by the flower in order to attract flies, its principal pollinator. Note the very fine hairs all over the petal, helping guide the fly down to the Corona, where the pollen is deposited. Green bottle flies here.

Purple Spiderwort with hairs on the stamens. These hairs are a series of cells connected end to end. One of the most curious use of "hairs" where the cells participate in providing nutrition for the flower.

It's quite rewarding to discover the many different ways flowers have evolved their particular survival/defense mechanisms.

- Richard

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