When I first saw the candle tree, during one of the tree walks, I was in awe. Imagine an old trunk holding a delicate, pretty, white flower!
I came across cauliflory a couple of years ago. When I posted the candle tree picture on India nature watch forum, a botanist there commented, “cauliflory – Beautiful textbook botany”. Naturally was drawn to the term, cauliflower – cauliflory and thought there should be some relation there. But, no.
Here is the definition from the dictionary:
cau·li·flo·rous [adjective] – producing flowers from the main stem or older branches
The term is derived from the Latin caulis, meaning stem, and flor, meaning flower.
Seeing the inflorescence/flower on new shoots is quite common. However, the cauliflorous plants have adapted to bearing them on the trunks or old branches. Why?
One theory is that the fruit maybe too big to be borne on a new branch (e.g. calabash, sausage tree)
Or it could be because of the pollinating agents, including the ones that cannot climb or fly.
These cauliflorous plants are usually small to mid-sized trees, the ones that make up the understorey in a tropical rainforest.
Our ashoka trees are cauliflorous too –
So are the below ficus trees –
And some of the fruiting trees –
And a couple of beautiful flowering trees exhibiting cauliflory –
Trees have used this strategy of offering their flowers and fruits to understory pollinators and fruit dispersers. There are more than 100 species that use this strategy, apparently.
Some people think trees are dumb! Think again!
If you are interested in seeing more flowering trees, here is the flickr set – Tropical trees of India