How can a plant move and can still stay alive?
The secret lies in its method of propagation. The crawling devil usually propagates vegetatively. All starts from the few seeds that become new plants. After growing for many years, the flat, surface-touching stem develops a few side branches. These side branches become the future plants that we saw scattered all over the field. Each branch is continuously growing and at the same time this growth is followed by death of the tissue that linked it to the original stem. This creates a plant that continuously moves forward. As its final adult size is mostly unchanged, from one to three meters long, after a while, the new plants are far from their place of origin. The original stem died out and what are left are individuals that always push forward in all directions from their place of origin. Some climb over other crawling devils moving in other directions, but apparently this does not affect their continuous growth. The whole site gives the impression of a worm nest. We suspect that these slow growing plants move no more than 5 cm per year. Such a peculiar reproduction creates the illusion that the individual cactus is moving horizontally. In fact, there is a continuous slow motion of moving forward but it is too slow for our eyes to catch. Because of this unique feature, this species is known in English as “walking cactus,” “creeping cactus,” “devil cactus,” or “crawling devil cactus.” Take your pick. Locally, it is know as “Chirinola,” which is a meaningless odd name. The scientific species name, eruca, is derived from the Latin “erucan,” means “caterpillar,” which the plant resembles.
Crawling devils moving in different direction
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Dr. Yoav Bashan
Dr. Jose-Luis Leon de La Luz
Designed by: Juan Pablo Hernandez
Version: October 2005
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