by Jean-Marie Cavanihac, France
page 2

This is an ivy hair: note the shape forms a star. Simple hairs on the ivy are often rare and are flattened against the stem. Perhaps the star-shaped hairs act like crampons which help the ivy fasten to old walls.

Geranium (in reality: Pelargonium) is a well known plant, and is often found on the balconies of our grandmothers! When you touch its leaves, they emit a strong odour: the explanation is simple, every hair is terminated by a sort of cup which contains a drop of perfume. When hairs are mounted on a slide, the drops are dissolved by the mounting medium and cannot be seen. Some people says this odour repels mosquitos.

Lavender is also a plant with a strong smell, but the hairs are dry, so the odour does not come from them. Note that both a top and side view is needed to show the structure of the hairs.

Chrysanthemum have elegant 'T' shaped hairs.

A picture of hair from a sort of wild cabbage. The leaves are very hairy and appear to be covered by snow.

Some seeds use hairs for another strategy; not defensive but to increase their chances of reproduction. A few seeds can fly, such as maple or elm seeds, but on the ground, other plants produce seeds with hairs which look like hooks - burdock seed for example. These hairs hook themselves on animals fur for example (or on our trousers!) and the seeds fall or get brushed off in due the course to colonize another place - often far from their original habitat. Long before Man, Nature had invented VELCRO !

** I use a mixture of 1/3 deionized water, 1/3 glycerin and 1/3 ethanol (70). (The latter two are available in drugstores). All the pictures above are from slides I have prepared with gelatin-glycerin mount.

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All photographs Jean-Marie Cavanihac 2000


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