The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Plant people…HEEELLLP! Update: mystery solved!

Now that I have your attention…what in the HECK is this????

The plant grows in a small, roundish cluster of stems, and stands about 2 inches off the ground.  Each “cup” is about 4 mm across.    I found it growing alongside a road, on sand, about 15 feet from a lake.  So very cool, and so very weird.   I’d love to put a name to it, or at least get an idea of where to start looking.

Your thoughts, oh learned and clever readers?


You guys are gosh-darned awesome! 

These great little structures are called “splash cups”…the seeds cradled within get forcibly tossed out when raindrops land in the cup – a fantastically neat method of seed dispersal!  The cups belong to a Saxifrage; although there seems to be some debate over the taxonomy of closely related species, it might be safe to label this as Golden Saxifrage (Chrysoplenium tetandrum), which is common to this area.  A neat note on this species’ habitat: it is often associated with high loads of animal waste.  Indeed, the strip of beachfront where I found these plants was littered with pintail duck poop.  

Hm.  I feel like I should be awarding points or something here…

5 to Susannah for thinking outside the box

10 to Katie for IDing the seed-dispersing structure correctly

20 to Peter for nailing the plant ID

You may all cash in your points for…um…my undying appreciation.

7 responses to “Plant people…HEEELLLP! Update: mystery solved!

  1. Susannah July 21, 2010 at 1:07 AM

    Very pretty! Have you considered lichens? The leaves look thick enough to be thalli.

    I’ve seen a photo like this before, but I can’t remember where. There are similar cup mushrooms, but they have no leaves.

    • TGIQ July 21, 2010 at 11:20 AM

      Lichen never occurred to me. And yes, I’ve seen similar mushrooms before, but as you say, these aren’t fungi. I’m going to go back to the site and take a better look later today, get a better idea of what I’m working with here.

  2. peteryeeles July 21, 2010 at 3:15 AM

    Looks like a Saxifrage – not sure of which species.

    Awesome little plant!

    • TGIQ July 21, 2010 at 11:19 AM

      Dude, you NAILED it!!! Freaking EVERYTHING up here is a Saxifrage, but most of them make roundish seed capsules, not these “splash cups” (which are mad cool by the way). This little “Golden Saxifrage” is growing exactly where it should: imperfectly drained moist soil, near water, and in an area with lots of animal waste (there is a flock of pintail ducks that hangs out on that particular side of the shoreline only, and they’ve pooped eveywhere).

  3. Katie July 21, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    I’m not a plant person but was intrigued by your post. After looking around online, I’m not surprised you’re stumped. My guess is this is bryophyte with gemmae or spores. Also search for splash cups. Maybe you’ll find these two links helpful in your search:

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