Monday, August 27, 2007

Mystery Vine

Looking beyond the computer and out the window at the Audubon Center at the Francis Beidler Forest, we saw a White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus) eating a purple fruit hanging from a vine. As we could not identify the plant from the office, even with binoculars, we went outside for a closer inspection. On the way back, we collected the empty Hooded Warbler (Wilsonia citrina) nest (see blog) for use in our education program.

After removing a section of the vine and returning to the office, nobody on the crack staff could identify it from memory. We check Richard Porcher’s A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina, but did not see anything like our vine. Next, we went to the Internet in search of a dichotomous key. A dichotomous key poses a question regarding the subject (plant, rock, bird, fish, etc.) that you are trying to identify. For example, "Are the leaves simple?" If yes, you might be sent to question #2. If no, you might be sent to question #20. There you will find another question with only two possible answers. Each answer will lead to another question until only one possible answer remains. That would be the identification of your subject.

In our case, we found our answer at the end of question #31 although we did not need to answer 31 questions. Our mystery vine is Yellow Passion-flower (Passiflora lutea), which is referenced in Porcher’s book but not pictured. According to Porcher "the common name comes from the resemblance of the floral parts to the story of Christ’s Passion; the styles resemble nails; the 5 stamens, the wounds Jesus received; the purplish corona [of the related Passiflora incarnata], the bloody crown; the 10 perianth parts, the 10 disciples (Peter and Judas being absent); the coiled tendrils, the whips for scourging; the pistil, the column where Christ was scourged; and the flower in the background of dull, green leaves represents Christ in the hands of His enemies. Interestingly, the flower’s life is generally three days."

No comments: