Through the Looking-glass

My latest plant is one that is easily overlooked. It’s not tiny, the flowers aren’t minute, but it doesn’t have many blossoms at any given moment, and the stems are slender and unbranched.

Triodanis perfoliata is one of our local members of the Campanulaceae, or Bell-flower Family.

This species has egg-shaped leaves that are widely spaced along the stem and usually one or two blossoms open at any given time.

The common name for this plant is Venus’ Looking-glass. I think this stems (ha!) from the unique way the fruits are constructed. Instead of breaking open along a seam as most capsules do, the fruits open by a single pore that opens in the side. The flap of tissue that initially covered the pore rolls up like a little Roman shade, leaving a peep-hole through which the microscopic seeds can fall out.

Fruit photos by Larrhy Allain

Sometimes the pore goes all the way through. In variety shown above, var biflora, the pore is located above the middle of the capsule.

Another interesting fact is that most of the fruits are not made by the showy purple flowers. Instead, they’re the product of cleistogamous flowers–reduced, non-showy flowers that are self-pollinated. Plants with cleistogamous flowers can get away with self-pollination because, usually, they are so genetically heterogeneous that no bad effects of inbreeding occur.

I sketched var. perfoliata, which usually has 2 (or sometimes more–got to get in as much color as possible!) showy flowers open at the top and the pore on the fruit located below the middle.

Since the leaves have low, rounded teeth, I initially charted it with wavy leaf margins, but that gave the impression of too much toothiness…

… so I did not carry them into the finished chart.

I’m happy with how these turned out. It was fun to do a plant less complicated than some of the others, without a lot of backstitches. You’d think by now I’d have all the colors of the floral rainbow, but nope! I had to add a couple for this design.

Here’s a close-up of what the stitched flowers would look like, complete with white style and stigma.

And here are the little peep-hole fruit:

When put in the chart with my other plants, they look very tall and leggy, but really, they are about right. If I stitch them in company, I can always take out a node or two of stem and make them a little shorter.

If anyone is curious, here’s what my doodle space looks like now.

Looks like spring!

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