Rei's Random List of Cool Organisms
(the above picture has nothing to do with anything)
Randomly cool things:
- Selaginella Lepidophylla (sp?). "Resurrection plant," "Dinosaur
plant," occasionally "Rose of Jericho." (See
it grow in the wild on this carnivorous Ping page.) A plant that
curls up and dries out, then comes back to life when watered. (Note:
I think they require very high humidity to be grown in the home,
though their instructions never tell you this. Try a
terrarium). Pleopeltis polypodioides is the resurrection fern, which
- All sorts of shrimp. Brine shrimp (Sea Monkeys). Also, "Triops" (tadpole shrimp). Dried out eggs can hatch in water years later. (Both are branchiopods; you can find out more in the Encyclopedia Britannica.)
- Speaking of shrimp - some gobies (fish) and snapping shrimp (pistol shrimp) have a relationship where the fish stands guard while the shrimp digs a nice burrow for a home. The fish warns the shrimp of predators nearby, and the shrimp keeps the house clean and tidy. Pretty cool!
- Speaking of gobies, other varieties of goby operate "cleaning stations" for other fish. The gobies set up shop in a certain location, and larger fish who need a clean-up come over and change color. The gobies then go up to the larger fish and pick off parasites and debris and such. The "client" fish even open their mouths and hold out their fins for thorough servicing. The gobies get a meal out of it.
- Easter Egg Plant. Fruits look like colored eggs.
- Sensitive Plant (mimosa pudica; also the related aquatic
Neptunia). Leaves fold up when touched; see
this essay. Same goes for the leaves of the star fruit tree
(averrhoa carambola), apparently. Some oxalis and the "prayer plant"
will also close their leaves at night. Many carnivorous plants also
move in response to touch (more below).
- Ferns and jellyfish, for having weird 2 cycle lives including a sexual phase and an asexual phase. Even cooler among jellyfish-types, Portuguese Man-'O-Wars consist of not one organism, but a bunch of specialized related individuals. (Colony-like. Reminds me of specialized ants).
- Caulerpa. A contributor notes that this seaweed, which looks like any other seaweed, is actually made up of one cell.
- Slime molds. Normally independently-minded bits of slime mold consolidate into a mass under stress, and produce spores on stalks.
- Guess I'll add colony insects. It's just really cool how scout bees will look around for a new nesting site and then debate among themselves whether to accept it or not. (If they do, the old queen and her subjects all fly over to it).
- Speaking of colony insects, how about colony arachnids? There are some spiders that live in communal colonies....
- Another contributor nominates volvox, an alga (yes, like green
pond algae). General
volvox coolness and volvox and
sex. Yeah, pretty cool!
- And for mathematically very cool, there's the fractal-like
Romanesco broccoli aka Romanesco cauliflower (maybe broccoflower).
A picture on
a German site, another nice
picture discussing the plant being "entheogenic", and
another picture. If you've ever bought one, you can see at least
4, if not 5, levels of the repeating fractal iterations.
Really Smart Dogs:
- Shetland Sheepdogs (top of the scale); they look like mini collies.
- Small poodles (off the top of the scale); not as cute as the above.
- Border collies. "Workaholics."
Really Smart Birds:
- As someone reminded me, corvids; ravens in particular. There are some
great stories of corvid intelligence (like how they use tools or open tough
nuts by dropping the nut in front of oncoming traffic).
- Cockatoos. In particular, Bare-Eyed Cockatoos. They can change the color of your TV set (at least the old type of TV set).
- Macaws. They will turn on the faucet to get a drink.
- African Greys. They can count; they can name colors; they can tell you how a blue key differs from a blue ball. Yow! Read about Dr.
Pepperberg and Alex.
- Amazons. They can teach you to run in fear of their beaks.
- Not!! (Little cockatiels and lovebirds. They're not stupid, but they're not tremendously bright, either. But they are *cute* (and loud)!)
Really Smart Animals:
- Dolphins. Of course.
- Chimps. Of course.
- Parrots (see above). Corvids, too.
- Pigs, wolves, dogs, raccoons, etc.
- Octopi. Well, OK, they're brilliant for mollusks (about rat IQ).
- People. People? Hmmm. Nahhhhh.
House Plants That Can Survive Cruddy Conditions:
- Aglaonema, also known as Chinese Evergreens. Actually are mortal, but still reasonably tough.
- Sansevieria; Snake Plants, also known as Mother-In-Law's-Tongue. Nearly impossible to kill, but MIT has done it. Half-dead ones are salvagable.
- Dracaenea. These can come back from the near-dead with care.
- Cacti (but they need good light).
- Crassulas. Jade Plants (but they need light).
- Chlorophytum. Spider Plants. Tough.
- Aloe Vera. (Give 'em light).
- Pothos (Scindapsus). Devil's Ivy. (Stand back and watch it take over a room. Give some to your friends. They'll soon be giving some to their friends).
- NOT! (Venus Flytraps (which are getting rare). Moth Orchids. Miniature Roses. Etc.)
- ? African violets. Normally I'd say they're immensely killable,
but I've managed to grow a pile from seed. As long as I keep them
fertilized and somewhat well-watered, they don't seem to mind the
24-hour 2-bulb 0-sunlight setup I keep them under. Weird.
(Perennial) Garden Plants That Can Survive Cruddy Conditions:
- Purple Coneflowers
- Mints! Mints! Mints!
Many of these are becoming rare, thanks to
uncaring people who take lots of plants from the wild to sell to
uninformed consumers. Do NOT buy carnivorous plants, unless you are
absolutely *SURE* they are grown by someone who is propagating the
plants him/herself (and not all labels that claim this are telling the
truth). Or unless you think you have a real chance of being able to
propagate one, I suppose. As a note, they like cool temperatures (not
higher than 75 degrees F), high humidity, and fairly bright light, and
may require a dormant period - and as I recently learned, you must
always use distilled water for watering never tap water. These
are pretty hard conditions to meet in most homes. Check this article for more info.
(This page was first written in 4/94 ... the old days of the WWW.)
- Venus Flytraps. The classic green jaws of death. Each jaw-half
contains three trigger hairs (not to be confused with the tooth-like
edging); a certain number must be triggered a certain number of times
for the hinges to swing shut. (Turgor pressure closes the leaves).
These plants are native to bogs in North Carolina. Growing Tips (link).
- Sundews. The same radial pattern of Venus Flytrap growth, except
with things that look like hair-brushes at the end. Each "tooth" of
the brush is tipped with a drop of sticky dew-like liquid. Insects
are trapped in the dew, and the leaf folds up over the bug. I find
the round-leaved "brush" ones (as opposed to one with long "brush"
sections) to be actually kinda cute.
- Bogworts. Underwater bladders trap small water bugs.
- Butterworts. Innocuous-looking plants with rosette leaves. The
leaves have a curl at their edges and fine hairs that force small
insects toward the edges. The bugs are trapped there (the leaves are
somewhat sticky) and digested.
- Pitcher Plants, all sorts. Basic idea is that the bug or small
animal falls inside the pitcher-shaped leaf and drowns in the
digestive fluid. Yum. Downward pointing hairs prevent things from
Back to my homepage