Cyclamen

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There is something about flowers with reflexed petals that I find quite appealing. That is probably why I have always had a soft spot for Cyclamen. These interesting little plants are quite popular as horticultural specimens due to their relative hardiness. A lush individual can really brighten up a room. As with any common house plant, I am always eager to learn about their ecology. A quick search for Cyclamen in the literature turns up some interesting facts. 

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Cyclamen are native to Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, Iran, with a single species native to Somalia. There are approximately 23 different species and a decent amount of revisions regarding where they fit taxonomically. The latest that I am aware of has placed this genus in a subfamily within Primulaceae. Though they seem to grow well in a lot of different habitats, most species appear to be at home growing along mountainsides in stable scree slopes. Each plant grows from a true tuber, which allows them energy stores for re-sprouting after a dry season dormancy. 

The flowers are adapted for buzz pollination, not unlike tomatoes and their relatives. However, some researchers have noted that for some species, buzz pollination is a rare event. Instead, many non-specialist pollinators are the most frequent visitors. Some have taken this as a sign that certain species of Cyclamen have lost their original pollinator for an unknown reason. 

Throughout their range, many species have been severely depleted due to over-collection for the horticulture trade. As such, a handful of species are considered quite endangered. Luckily, there are many organizations out there that are cultivating these species on a large scale to take pressure off of wild populations. There may be hope after all. However, some climate change projections put other species at risk of loosing the habitats that sustain them. This is especially true for montane species. Only time will tell. 

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Further Reading:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0367253006000211

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/6/72

http://www.amjbot.org/content/87/9/1325.full

http://www.cyclamen.org/indexCS.html