A close-up view of Roma Masterwort
Close-up View of Roma Masterwort
by Brian Johnston (Canada)
major, (“Greater Masterwort”, “Hattie’s Pincushion” or
“Melancholy Gentleman”), is a member of the Apiaceae family. Since family
members have flower clusters in which each flower is joined by its
stalk to a common point, they are commonly referred to as Umbelliferae. Carrots, parsley, and
celery are edible vegetable members of the family, and strangely, so is
the extremely poisonous spotted water-hemlock – the most toxic plant in
Amazingly, Astrantia major has been cultivated
since the 1500’s. This is probably due to the fact that it is very
hardy, and produces seeds more freely than other species. The plant’s
leaves first appear in March, and its flowers appear late in May. The
cultivar name Roma Masterwort is used to describe the particular hybrid
photographed for this article, which has particularly colourful blooms.
The first image in the article, and
the one that follows, show the most colourful aspect of Roma
Masterwort. What appear to be the flowers’ petals, are not petals
at all, but whorls of protective bracts (modified leaves) surrounding
each composite flower-head.
These pinkish-red bracts display a
complex vein pattern when viewed close-up. At this early stage of
the blooming process, the actual flowers are not visible in side views
of the plant. As the plant grows, the stalk supporting each
flower-head grows in length. The last three images of the group show
immature flower-heads that are still enclosed within groups of green
A view of what is hidden within the
whorl of bracts can be seen below. Each of the red pentagonal
structures is an individual Greater Masterwort flower.
The two images that follow show how
the bracts open out until they form an almost flat surface as the
flower-head blooms. Notice that the bracts are lighter in
colouration on their inner surface.
The many individual flowers whose
stems grow from a common disk in the centre of the whorl of bracts,
reach maturity in order from the centre, to the circumference.
Viewed from the back, the whorl of
bracts is very visually appealing. Each bract possesses a
longitudinal, green central vein, with a less prominent, lighter green
vein on each side. A finer pattern of veins interconnects these
more prominent ones, and continues out to the bract’s edge.
Closer views of the upper surfaces
of flowers show their pentagonal shape, and several projecting
Beneath each pinkish-red flower is
a ring of tiny, dark green sepals, and beneath the sepals is a
pinkish-white, barrel-shaped ovary.
Two white-tipped pistils extend out
of the flower in a V-shape. Each sturdy, red style supports a
white stigma. Just to the left of the two pistils in the image is
one of the flower’s five stamens, comprised of a red filament which
supports a white anther.
If some of the flowers are removed
from the flower-head, it is easier to see the arrangement of its
constituent parts. A flower’s stalk grows from a disk at the top of a
ridged stem. The top of the stalk connects to the flower’s
ovary. Growing from the top of the ovary is a single whorl of
five dark green pointed sepals.
These sepals surround the five pink flower petals.
Details of the ridged stem, and
convex green dome from which the flower stalks grow can be seen clearly
in the image that follows. Note that when each flower’s stalk is
cut, a milky liquid is exuded.
An ovary which is positioned
beneath a flower’s sepals and petals is referred to as inferior. Notice the striking
intricate structure of the ovary’s pale green, to light pink,
Associated with each sepal is a
curved pink rod. The pink rod is actually a filament, and it
supports an anther buried deep within the flower.
Much closer views of a flower
reveal more details. The whorl of sepals, each of which is green
at its base, and pink at its sharply pointed tip, is called the
flower’s calyx. The
whorl of pink, heart-shaped petals is called the flower’s corolla. If you look closely,
you can see the almost white oval anthers which are connected to the
thin ends of filaments. Projecting out of the flower are its two
Notice that the ridges on the
ovary’s surface have pointed, scale-like projections, and that between
the bands of ridges, the inner pale green surface of the ovary is
After several days, the whorl of
bracts enclosing the flower-head has opened out into its final, almost
Various stages in the blooming
process can be seen in the three images that follow. Notice that
the inner portion of the open whorl of bracts is almost completely
white. This may provide contrast for the colourful flowers, and
help visiting insects in navigating to the flower-head’s central area.
At the point on the main stem from
which the flower-head stalks emanate, there is a ring of three
distinctively shaped leaflets.
Two notches near the top of an
essentially oval leaf produce the three-pointed shape.
The lower and middle portion of one
of these leaflets can be seen below. Notice the very
three-dimensional veining on the lower surface.
Higher magnification shows these
veins more clearly, as well as the very tiny pink, hair-like spines
along the leaflet’s edge.
Lower on the stem, immature
leaflets overlap, and sheath the stalk.
While photographing the plant’s
stem, I noticed motion through the camera’s viewfinder. An
extremely small sucking insect was exploring the landscape. It
was kind enough to remain stationary long enough to obtain the
The stem itself is unusual.
Its shape is not cylindrical, but rather cusp-like, with the channels a
green colour, and the longitudinal ridges a white colour.
Greater Masterwort leaves possess
five palmately arranged lobes with serrated edges. The image
reveals that each of the lobes has a slightly different shape.
They are certainly not carbon-copies of one another!
Glossy green in appearance, the
upper surface of a leaf has an intricate vein pattern, and an edge with
tiny needle-like projections as part of the serration.
The under-surface of the same leaf
is rougher, and much lighter in hue.
major is native to Balkan coppices (thickets), and sub-alpine
meadows. Over many years it has been successfully trans-located to grow
in gardens almost everywhere. Its charms sadly, are not seen at normal
viewing distances. When viewed close-up however, its spectacular,
intricate structure is fully revealed!
The low magnification, (to 1:1),
macro-photographs were taken using a 13 megapixel Canon 5D full frame
DSLR, using a Canon EF 180 mm 1:3.5 L Macro lens.
A 10 megapixel Canon 40D DSLR,
equipped with a specialized high magnification (1x to 5x) Canon macro
lens, the MP-E 65 mm 1:2.8, was used to take the remainder of the
A Flower Garden of
A complete graphical index of all
of my flower articles can be found here.
The Colourful World of
A complete graphical index of all
of my crystal articles can be found here.
Microscopy UK or their contributors.
Published in the
September 2010 edition of Micscape.
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