Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A spectacle, but not your conventional spectacles

with 23 comments

Spectacle Pod Fasciated 0315A

Two-and-a-half hours after I learned about the existence of spectacle pod, Dimorphocarpa wislizeni, on September 23rd outside the visitor center at Petroglyph National Monument in northwest Albuquerque, I came across a fasciated specimen in the Piedras Marcadas section of the national monument. Long-time readers of this blog know the fascination of fasciation, but those of you who are unfamiliar with this type of weird growth are welcome to read a few articles about it:

What Is Fasciation?


Fasciated Plants (Crested Plants)

The spectacle pod in today’s photograph was the first of four fasciated plants I saw on my trip through the Southwest. One of the other specimens was on a smaller scale, but the other two were gigantic, the largest I’ve ever come across or even heard about, as you’ll see in a future post.

By the way, the flattened “ribbon” of this spectacle pod keeps reminding me of the similarly shaped bundle of wires inside the dot-matrix ImageWriter printer I got in 1985. I hadn’t thought of it in years, but the comparison strikes me as apt.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 17, 2014 at 4:37 AM

23 Responses

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  1. Fascinating. I see the resemblance to the old printer cables. Looking forward to the other three species. I do not recall seeing fasciation in any plants here as of yet.

    Steve Gingold

    October 17, 2014 at 4:47 AM

    • Now you, too, have been inducted into the Fascination with Fasciation Society. Welcome.

      One clarification about the other three fasciated plants I saw on this trip: the two giant ones were of the same species, so only three species were involved in my four sightings.

      I do hope you’ll find some in Massachusetts. I can’t imagine that New England is exempt.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 17, 2014 at 5:03 AM

  2. Interesting … and good for you for observing closely enough to have picked this one out of the vegetable crowd. Meristematic (generative) tissue can be tricky stuff, and I find it counter-intuitive that such modifications are rare … I would think they’d be fairly common. If you’ve got a rapidly growing mitotic center, and that center becomes modified by either fungal or bacterial infection, or by a mutation, the effect is the same, a highly modified pattern of growth. Like (the other) Steve, I too am looking forward to presentation of the fasciated giants. D

    Pairodox Farm

    October 17, 2014 at 5:11 AM

    • Good timing for me that I’d learned the name of the plant just a little earlier. Not knowing what it was wouldn’t have stopped me from photographing it, but it helped to have the identification.

      As for the rarity of fasciation, I guess it depends on how you define rare. If you compute the ratio of fasciated plants to normal ones, you’ll get a tiny number, just a small fraction of 1%. On the other hand, I think that since I started photographing native plants I’ve come across at least one and usually several fasciated plants each year. In Tucson on this recent trip I found three fasciated specimens in just two days (maybe there’s something in the water there). In summary: faciation’s not common, but it’s not so rare either.

      The other three fasciated plants are from near the end of my trip, so those pictures won’t appear till several weeks from now if I stick to a roughly chronological presentation.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 17, 2014 at 5:37 AM

      • Wouldn’t it be really quite fascinating if people were fasciated (though not ever fenistrate)? Then I could introduce by brother-in-law, for example, as being fascinatingly-fasciated, or perhaps even fastidiously-fascinated. And human fasciation would involve polydactyly among other multiplications? D

        Pairodox Farm

        October 17, 2014 at 5:59 AM

  3. I didn’t own a printer in 1985 so I will have to take your word on it, re the similarities.


    October 17, 2014 at 5:28 AM

    • That ImageWriter was my first computer printer, and a noisy thing it was, too. The ribbon cable I’m reminded of was inside it, and it carried signals to the print head that would cause the relevant pins to strike and make the desired letters or images.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 17, 2014 at 5:41 AM

      • And apart from the noise, was it a good printer?


        October 17, 2014 at 5:45 AM

        • For its time it was okay, but the advent of laser printers just a few years later made all dot-matrix printing seem crude.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 17, 2014 at 5:52 AM

          • I still don’t own a printer!


            October 17, 2014 at 5:54 AM

            • I was tempted to say “Get thee to a computer store” but there’s less and less need for printed versions of documents now that so much appears in e-mails and on websites (these blogs, for example). Of course a document on paper, regardless of how fragile paper is, may long outlast a cyber version of the document. I’ve heard historians and biographers dread the prospect of not having printed documents to refer to in their research.

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 17, 2014 at 6:08 AM

              • You would not be the first to tell me that! I use the library printers if I need something printed. And ,yes, lack of a paper trail may well cause problems for historians. We will need cyber archaeologists to trace our history.


                October 17, 2014 at 6:13 AM

  4. I read Imagewriter and immediately starting hearing it from memory. Another memory is the heavy weight. One could serve as ballast on a ship.

    Jim in IA

    October 17, 2014 at 7:52 AM

    • Ah yes, I’d forgotten how heavy it was, but I’ll never forget the sound it made when it printed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 17, 2014 at 4:42 PM

  5. That is really interesting…I read the articles so thank you for including them as references for more info.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    October 17, 2014 at 12:07 PM

  6. Opening this page was such a great reminder of how important knowledge can be for sight. Because of your previous posts, I recognized the fasciation immediately. But, in the past, there’s no question I would have looked at the photo — or even stood three feet away from the specimen in the wild — and looked right past it, not recognizing that something special was in front of me.

    As it is, I didn’t recognize the similarity to the printer’s power cord until you pointed it out. Then, I remembered. My first printer had something similar. I remember a ribbon-like gizmo with a thingie on the end that had to be plugged in. It always worked, so I never learned more about it.


    October 18, 2014 at 8:45 AM

    • You’re probably right that because I’m tuned in to fasciation I notice examples of it in the wild. I say “probably” because there’s no way for me to know how many fasciated specimens I walk past and don’t see. My doppelgänger would have to follow me around and make note of the ones I miss, and surely doppelgängers have better things to do with their (non-existent) lives.

      If I’m interpreting your comments correctly, both you and Steve Gingold thought about power cords, but the ribbon cable I was reminded of was inside the printer and controlled the little pins that moved in and out in the print head to create images on the paper.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 18, 2014 at 9:34 AM

  7. Making a bridge from plant to plant (or one part of the plant to the next). What’s the actual size of what we’re seeing? Would any of us mere mortals have spotted this? Fascinating fasciation!

    Susan Scheid

    October 25, 2014 at 9:08 PM

    • If I remember right, the ribbony part was about 6 inches long. I think you might have spotted it too because it’s so unusual.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 25, 2014 at 9:24 PM

  8. […] I don’t know, but the searcher was taken to a post about a fasciated plant. […]

  9. […] a post last October that showed a fasciated spectacle pod plant in Albuquerque, I mentioned that it was one of four such specimens I saw on my Southwest trip. I […]

  10. […] the fasciated saguaro you recently saw and the fasciated spectacle pod you’d seen last fall, I’m finishing up that theme by showing you the other fasciated […]

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