Journal of Heredity 14:96 (1923)

Prolification and Phyllomorphy in Nymphaea Rubra
P. M. D
Howra, India


FIGURE 18. Several stamens have developed into small, leaf-like structures, and a supernumerary flower has grown from the axils of one of the petals. Leaves and stamens are structurally so different that such a change of characters is remarkable. It is not known what caused this variation, but it is believed to be due either to a parasite or to a nutritional disturbance.

THE curious specimen described below appears to be worth placing on record as an example principally of axial floral prolification of the flower and phyllomorphy of the stamens.

In this specimen a small supernumerary flower with a distinct pedicel has issued from the axil of one of the inner petals of a normal-sized flower of Nymphaea rubra Roxb. The stamens have been transformed into small leaf-like structures thus exhibiting "phyllomorphy." This latter change is very striking in view of the fact that the structure of an anther is usually far removed from that of an ordinary leaf. The ovary has been found to be filled with a brownish-yellow mass and covered with intricate woolly hairs. No trace of any stamens or ovary has been found inside the supernumerary flower, which is quite small in comparison with normal flowers. Not only the flowers but even the leaves in this specimen are found to be rather modified in shape and size.

Masters has recorded a somewhat similar specimen of Nymphaea in his Vegetable Teratology. The present one, however, primarily differs from the latter in the following respects — (1) the scape is free from any sign of torsion; (2) the supernumerary flower has apparently proceeded from the axil of a petal; (3) long matted hairs cover the disc and the abortive ovary and (4) the leaves are modified in size and shape.

It seems quite probable that two different kinds of factors — one internal and the other external — might have been at work here, giving rise to these structural deviations. On the one hand the presence of the supernumerary flower and the change in the shape and size of the leaves lead us to suspect that these might have been due to some internal cause (e.g. nutrition), and, on the other hand, the abnormal tissue in the abortive ovary and the hairs on it, lead us to suspect some external factor (e.g. a parasite).