Up Close & Personal
SAPOTACEAE - Synsepalum dulcificum
Miracle Fruit is native
by Bobby G. Cannon II
flowers are so small that it becomes difficult to see just how they are
arranged and where even some of the major parts are located. Miracle
fruit is one of these. I have been around these plants for decades and
never taken a really close look at the flowers. Recent discussions on a
rare fruit mail group I founded prompted me to take a good look at
these small flowers.
How is this fruit pollinated? Some references exist that say it is
‘self pollinated’ and I found none showing insect or animal
pollination. The shape of the flower, and the fact that many of them
face downwards, suggests gravity as a mechanism.
The flowers are quite small and it was with some difficulty that I
managed to dissect some of the parts away from the flowers. I first
tried unopened flower buds but the parts seemed fused too tightly for a
good examination. Older flowers, where the petals have darkened, were
too dry and friable for much success. Flowers that were still at the
stages where the petals are cream or white offered the best results.
Since I have seen evidence of pollen drop when working around the
flowers I collected some by holding a microscope slide beneath clusters
of opened flowers and giving the plant a few sharp taps. The grains are
translucent white and shaped somewhat like a coffee bean.
Objective: 4 (0.15); 10 (0.25)
I wanted a look at the source of this pollen so I opened flowers and
searched till I found the stamens and could see how they were
attached. In this image you can see on the right that the
filament is attached to the base of a petal. (The petals are somewhat
spatulate in shape).
Here is an image of an anther, much closer up.
Male parts of the flower reveled I took a look at the female parts. You
may have noticed in one of the images of an entire flower that part of
the pistil and the stigma grow past the opening of the flower.
It is this form of growth that suggests gravity as a major method of
pollination to me. Here is a micro photograph of the exposed stigma
where you can see the tip where pollen is received. You can also see
that the tip is not just a rounded surface but has several crenelations.
Objective: 4 (0.15)
This image shows the base of the style where it attaches to the
ovary. I found it interesting that the ovary is quite pubescent at this
point. What function this serves is unknown to me but it might serve to
repel insects that would feed on the developing fruit.
Objective: 4 (0.15)
I was unable to get an image of the seed developing in the
ovary and will attempt to improve all images in a future update.
Producing these images, as noted, was not easy and I have concluded
that I need to add some things to my micro photography set up: better
dissection tools; a more secure camera to microscope mount; new stage
for microscope (the one I have is missing some components); a lower
power dissecting microscope.
Microscope: Swift Nine Fifty Series. Objectives, Quad Phase: 4 (0.15);
10 (0.25); 40 (0.65); Eyepiece X20.
Images captured with a Samsung S850, 8.1 Mega Pixel digital camera.
Camera joined to microscope using an armstrong method.
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