A (Second) Close-up View of an

Anemone Hybrid

Anemone coronaria 'Mona Lisa'

by Brian Johnston   (Canada)

One of the first plants to become available in spring at my nearest garden-centre, is the hybrid Anemone coronaria ‘Mona Lisa’.  This year, the flowers displayed an amazing variety of colours, and I was tempted to photograph the striking blooms once again.  Since writing the earlier Micscape article, my macro-photographic equipment has changed (see end of article), and I was eager to test the new camera and lenses.

A member of the Buttercup, or Ranunculaceae family, the Anemone is native to the Mediterranean and Central Asian regions.  Depending on where you live, it may be called Anemone, Windflower, or Poppy Anemone.  Members of this species have been in cultivation since the sixteenth century, certain proof of their longstanding popularity.  Cultivars of the species are divided into two groups, those with one whorl of petals in a flower, called the ‘de Caen’ group, and those with multiple whorls, called the ‘St. Brigid’ group.  The flowers photographed in this article are all examples of the ‘de Caen’ type.

Anemone blooms display spectacular variation in  colour and pattern, several of which can be seen in the first image in the article, and the one below.  One of the distinguishing characteristics of the species is the involucre of three leaflets below each flower. (An involucre is defined as a whorl of bracts or modified leaves.)  This involucre is clearly visible beneath the taller flower in the following image.  The particular cultivar studied here was developed to have strong, sturdy stems in order that it might be used as a long-lasting cut flower.

The two images that follow show the main characteristics of anemone flowers.  Many other plant species possess a whorl of green sepals (modified petal-like leaves) immediately beneath the petals.  Anemone’s sepals are indistinguishable from its petals, and so both sepals and petals in this species are more properly referred to as tepals.   At the centre of each flower is a dark dome formed by the very large number of pistils.  Surrounding this dome are multiple rings of stamens which, according to some, look like a crown surrounding the domed head.  The Latin name for the species, ‘coronaria’, refers to the ‘crown’ formed by these rings.

First, let’s look at the red and white flower.  Notice that its colour pattern is not perfectly symmetrical.  It is interesting that the white ring beneath the crown of stamens increases their colour contrast.

A higher magnification reveals that the filaments are bright red in colour.  As we will see, the filament colour is different in each of the four variations studied in the article.

As we move closer, the detail on the surface of an anther becomes easier to see.  Each anther is roughly oval in shape, and is divided into two lobes by a central longitudinal formation.

Obtaining sharp, detailed images of these anthers is a challenge.  Each is about two millimetres in length, and the slightest movement caused by vibration of the building, or by the photographer’s breath, induces blur producing motion.  (There was therefore, much breath-holding during the anther macro-photography!  Even though my floor is concrete, the sturdy table on which the plants were placed would vibrate microscopically unless one of its edges was firmly in contact with wall.  Macro-photography in the city, with cars and trucks moving constantly nearby, is a problem that takes constant trial and error to alleviate.)

Notice the strange, and unusual pattern of ridges on each of the anther’s lobes.  These ridges have a reflective surface texture, and this accounts for their shiny appearance.

A close-up of the mound of pistils can be seen below.  There are hundreds of individual deep purple pistils, with lighter coloured tips, in the mound.  If you look carefully, the light brown hairs that will become part of the achenes (seeds) after fertilization, are just visible at the base of the central pistils.

The second flower to be studied is white in colour, and for this cultivar we will take a look at the blooming process.  Below, you can see the ring of three parsley-like, divided leaves that form the flower’s involucre.  At this stage the outer tepals are still tinged with green.

Several days later, the bud has opened to reveal its final colouration.  Notice in the image on the left, that the petals have not fully moved back into their final, shallow, cup-like orientation. 

Notice below that immature anthers, (near the central mound of pistils), do not have the deep purple colour of the mature variety.  At an intermediate stage, they display a light blue colour.  In this flower the supporting filaments are pale pink.

In the macro-photographs below, I deliberately focused on the flower’s pistils.  What a contrast in colour when compared to the previous flower.  Here the bright blue pistils are highlighted against a bright yellow background!

Although the immature, beige-coloured anthers have the same ridged pattern as their older siblings, the pattern is more difficult to see.

The intermediate stage anthers shown below have a colour that matches the pistils in the nearby central mound.  Keen observers will have noticed that so far, none of the anthers show the pollen that it is their function to produce.  Patience!

The next flower to be studied doesn’t have the brilliant colouration of the red and white one, but it does possess an elegant pastel purple and white shading.  Here the central dome is deep purple, and the filaments are deep pink.

Each flower produced by this particular plant must possess an error in its DNA which results in one of its tepals being malformed, and much smaller than normal.  Blooms that opened weeks later than the one shown in the sequence below, displayed exactly the same malformation.

Notice the dense packing of the deep purple pistils in the mound shown below.

I mentioned earlier that the anthers seen so far have not shown any evidence of pollen formation.  This is due to the fact that the two lobes of each anther are covered by thin, ridged membranes that protect the developing pollen grains.  At a later stage, (seen below), these membranes begin to disintegrate, revealing the deep purple pollen grains stored beneath.  In the anther shown on the right, in the right hand image below, only the membrane on the left lobe has disintegrated.  In the same image, the anther to the left of the first has both membranes missing.

The sequence below shows the flower’s mound of pistils.  As in the previous bloom, hints of yellow can be seen beneath individual pistils in the last two images.

Here is the most colourful of the group of Anemone cultivars.  Its intensely purple colour is mirrored in the shade of its anthers and filaments.

A view of a section of the flower’s involucre follows.  Notice the tiny white hairs that grow along its prominent veins.

Regular readers will know that I normally include photomicrographs of flower structures as part of my ‘Close-up View’ articles.  In this case, I did not do so since they would be similar to those in the earlier article.

Photographic Equipment

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.

An 8 megapixel Canon 20D 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 images.

A Flower Garden of Macroscopic Delights

A complete graphical index of all of my flower articles can be found here.

The Colourful World of Chemical Crystals

A complete graphical index of all of my crystal articles can be found here.

 All comments to the author Brian Johnston are welcomed.

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