Wednesday 14 September 2011

Vegetable Sheep

Image: Nuytsia@Tas via Flickr
Pardon? Vegetable Sheep? I thought vegetable, animal and mineral were a tad more separate than that? Which is it? Or maybe it's just a very lazy sheep? A rather vague but filling meal?

Well, it certainly isn't a sheep. Some of the biggest ones can be several feet across and a couple feet tall. From a distance they'll look quite a lot like a woolly sheep, but it's a sheep without a head or legs or organs. Sounds like it'd be ready for the pot were it not covered in wool, but it isn't a sheep anyway so we'll have to let go of that.

It is indeed a plant, a shrub, in fact. A shrub found in cold, rocky areas of New Zealand. Cold, harsh, barren areas where a prepared chunk of mutton would probably be really welcome. But it's not a sheep, so we really should just let that go.

On closer inspection the Vegetable Sheep looks more like... a rock? We've all seen how peculiar a plant will get when it needs to survive the desert heat and desert rainfall that are so common in the desert. Here we see the lengths they go to in the cold.

Image: Nuytsia@Tas via Flickr
Vegetable Sheep show a tough exterior to the outside world. They have tiny leaves that are packed together with remarkable density. These are covered in small hairs that give them the woolly look. Apparently the woolly look is IN this year in New Zealand's alpine areas (same as ever, I should think). The hairs help to keep the chill winds out, which would not only freeze the plant but also dry it out.

Beneath this exterior is the warm, cosy interior, the part of the Vegetable Sheep that just wants to be loved but is fragile and wary of the outside world. Awwww.

It's actually composed of dead leaves that rot down and provide warmth and moisture to the rest of the plant. So I suppose it's composed of compost (I really like this sentence!). The branches inside send roots into this tiny haven of loveliness, while the main roots anchor the plant to rock crevices.

This system enables the Vegetable Sheep to cling to life, creating its own little biome and protecting it against the winds, snow and general chilliness. All that using little more than a crack in the wall!

Image: Nuytsia@Tas via Flickr
When the time is right, lots of tiny white or yellow flowers bloom and are pollinated by various insects. Let's see your blasted sheep do that! The flowers I mean, I'm sure sheep could attract insects quite easily.

Image: Wikipedia
We really ought to get over that, though.


TexWisGirl said...

tiny little cacti up close; cauliflower further away. :)

Joseph JG said...

Yes! It's amazing how many things this plant looks like.

Crunchy said...

That last picture looks delicious. Vegetable Lamb of Tartary Sauce?

Joseph JG said...

Ha! Yeh, it looks like the Ingredients Tree.

Anonymous said...

How does it reproduce?