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Kuchenium polyphyllum

The Spartan is a thick stemmed plant covered entirely in large leaves that are somewhat oval with pointed tips. Along the stem the leaves spiral to form overlapping layers that point downward, resembling a large skirt. Near the top of the plant the larger leaves also form overlapping layers encircling the stem, although these are oriented horizontally. The top of the plant houses the flowers, which are encircled by large leaves pointing upward. The entire plant is thought to resemble a highly decorated wedding cake. (Read more)
The Spartan is sensitive to touch and exhibits a thigmonastic or movement response when it is disturbed, which makes the leaves much harder for an herbivore to eat. Specialized cells at the point of connection of leaves and stem inflate when full of water, holding the leaves up. When the plant is disturbed the cells quickly lose their water and deflate, causing the leaves to droop. Disturbance of even one leaf triggers the overlapping leaves as well, so that the entire plant appears to collapse. The leaves on the stem fold downward, protecting the stem, while the larger leaves at the top fold upward, protecting the growing tip and flowers.

Although somewhat difficult to harvest when they fold, the leaves are edible and very useful as mats and food wraps.

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