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If Wolffia is Araceae....

  • Subject: If Wolffia is Araceae....
  • From: Jeremy P <drplantman@gmail.com>
  • Date: Mon, 20 Jul 2009 10:25:07 +1000

Hello Aroid-L Listers,

Without wanting to open a proverbial can of worms (which may have never really been closed...), I do have a question about Wolffia, it's flower structure and thus its' (current?) inclusion in Araceae.

I'll give the reason for my question first, which leads to the actual query itself - we have many aroids on public display here at the RBG Melbourne, and for a long time I've wanted to interpret to our visitors that they can stand under the plant with the world's largest inflorescence (The fabulous Amorphophallus titanum of course) while trying to spot the world's smallest flowering plant floating on the pond... Wolffia.

So, my mind began ticking away at the finer details of how to tell the story, and became unsure when I put the statement "the world's smallest flower" beside the inclusion of Wolffia in Araceae, which as I understand it, is renowned for its' spathe/spadix inflorescence - having tried to stumble my way through much taxonomic jargon (of which my understanding is regrettably rather poor) I'm still none the wiser, and so we arrive at my point of query...

Does Wolffia have a single flower or an inflorescence? Seeing that in clear print makes me realise just how limited my understanding may be as I'm sure I can hear echoes of "it's not that simple" bouncing back already! I have come across mention of unisexual aroids flowers (on the IAS website, Genera page) but wasn't sure if that correlates to having an inflorescence... again a confession of my limited understanding.

So, with that all said I wait, with gratitude for any replies, to be educated...

Jeremy P
RBG Melbourne
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