An appropriate entry for the first of October! I love when I encounter a plant that has a simple name, one that uses another object to describe itself. It usually means this plant has a very unique feature that sets it apart from the rest. So when I ran across a reference to the Skeleton Flower (Diphylleia grayi), I became excited before I saw any pictures.
As such, I was at first disappointed. It’s an innocuous appearing little plant, native to parts of China and Japan. The leaves are palmate, with deep veins visible and an uneven coloring of darker and lighter green The edges are spiked and turned down, often being described as umbrella shaped. But it’s called Skeleton FLOWER, right? Not entirely surprising that the rest of the plant would appear not terribly exciting.
But initially again I was disappointed. Bringing to mind the appearance strawberry blossoms to myself, they are small and white. Unlike strawberry blossoms, they rise a bit above the foliage on stalks that then branch out into clusters. Thin white petals and yellowy centers of stamens and pistils of a sort that are seen commonly in plantdom.
But then! Then I found their secret, the reason for their evocative name. When moisture touches the white petals, the color bleeds away and they turn transparent. The vein structure is still visible, white like the petals had been, but the majority is now delightfully see-through. You can see the skeleton of the petals, like taking an x-ray. Many of the images I found are of the flowers looking like delicate glass sculptures. They look as though they’d break with the slightest touch, or tear when a strong breeze hits their damp tissues.
Eventually, they produce edible berries that look much like blueberries to myself, but that’s besides the point! The point is a fascinating trait that could be utilized and adapted in a fantasy or sci fi story. I have a vision inside my head now, of a forest of plants that all turn utterly transparent except for their skeletons when it’s raining. Imagine your characters navigating through the both potentially beautiful and potentially disturbing maze of now transparent foliage. Stealthy creatures lurking behind layers, the faint suggestions of movement hinted at beneath the translucent layers of plant matter. It’s like an ice cave without the need for freezing temperatures. Hinting, teasing at what treasures or horrors may be just beyond the veil.