Predicting the World Cup winner: floral diversity

There’s been Paul the Octopus. There’s been Suri the Meerkat. There’s been Harry the Otter. Now, in another attempt to predict the World Cup winner, I will discuss the flora of the remaining nations in the tournament. Although each country has many fascinating indigenous species, I’ve decided to choose the national flower. Albeit perhaps a little gimmicky, this is mainly an excuse to demonstrate the diversity of plants around the world. At the time of writing, the quarter finals of the World Cup will shortly be played and so I have listed their national flowers, discussing their features of interest and noteworthiness.

Uruguay: Erythrina crista-galli is native to Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay and is usually found wild in gallery forests in swamp and wetland ecosystems. Its most notable features are the large red flowers and seeds characteristic of a legume. Other fascinating plants native to Uruguay include Cortaderia selloana and Cephalanthus glabratus [1].

FranceOfficially designated as the fleur de lis, the iris is the royal crest of the French monarchy. Irises produce inflorescences regularly ranging from dark blue to purple. Most species are found in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, predominantly in dry, semi-desert and rocky mountainous zones. Another notable species native to France and the Mediterranean, is Quercus sobur, the cork oak [2].

Prediction: Uruguay to win – E. crista-galli’s bright red flower make it a strong contender.

BelgiumIts national flower is the wild poppy, Papaver rhoeas, which is symbolic of soldiers of World War I. Their delicate scarlet flowers are an attractive, quintessential part of the European countryside. They are now considered an agricultural weed due to their widespread distribution and so many anthropogenic uses have been developed. Their seeds are edible and are often made into oil whilst the petals are used to colour medicines and wines [3].

BrazilNamed in the 1800s, Cattleya labiata, an orchid, is appointed as Brazil’s national flower. It is found in north eastern Brazil and is most commonly pollinated by insects. Another interesting plant related fact is that the country of Brazil is named after the Brazilwood tree, Paubrasilia echinata(originally called Terra do Brasil which translates as land of Brazilwood).

Prediction: Brazil to win – Although the poppy is iconic, I have a keen passion for orchids.

CroatiaIris croatica is endemic to Croatia and Slovenia. They are often located in limestone soils and are listed as a protected species. Its most notable features are its brilliant blue flowers and long branching stems [4].

RussiaMatricaria recutitacommonly known as chamomile, is Russia’s national flower. They bear charismatic yellow and white blooms. It is the most commonly used source of chamomile, with potential treatment as a sleep aid [5].

Prediction: Russia to win – Chamomile’s vibrant flowers would be hard to beat.

Sweden: Linnaea borealis is a small creeping shrub flower, found in boreal and subarctic woodlands. This plant was favoured by Carl Linnaeus for whom the genus was named  after [6,7].

EnglandThe rose, specifically the Tudor rose, originated as a heraldic emblem of the House of Tudor and has since become the national flower of England, amongst other countries [8].

Prediction: Sweden to win – Although the rose is a distinct plant, the fact that Linnaea borealis is named after Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomic classification, leads it to come out on top.

Uruguay vs. Brazil 

Prediction: Despite the global passion for orchid collecting, the bizarre forms and shapes of Erythrina crista-galli make it a stunning plant to study.

Russia vs. Sweden 

Prediction: The potential cultivation and uses of chamomile are strong arguments to propel Russia into the stage. Alongside this, their daisy-like flowers lead to Russia to move to the final.

Screenshot (23)The final

Overall Prediction: Uruguay to win

And with that, concludes my World Cup prediction. Here, we have just eight countries represented by eight flowering plants but as you can see their diversities of shape, colour and character are fascinating. Before writing this article, I had not heard of many of these plants or that they were national flowers of their respective nations. I hope you have learnt as much as from reading this post as I have writing it. I am certainly intrigued to discover more about national flowers of other nations and how they came to be designated so.

If you want to learn more: 

  1. Galetto et al. 2000. Reproductive biology of Erythrina crista-galli (Fabaceae). Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 87(2): 127-145.
  2. Kamenetsky, R. & Okubo, H. 2012. Ornamental Geophytes: From Basic Science to Sustainable Production. CRC Press.
  3. Kew Science. 2018. Papaver rhoeas L. Retrieved from http://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:306058-2.
  4. Austin, C. 2005. Irises: A Gardener’s Encyclopedia. Timber Press.
  5. Fitter, R. & Fitter, A. 1985. The wild flowers of Britain and Northern EuropeHarper Collins.
  6. The Royal Horticultural Society. 2018. Linnaea borealis – twinflower. Retrieved from https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/10303/Linnaea-borealis/Details.
  7. Christenhusz, M, J, M. 2013. Twins are not alone: a recircumscription of Linnaea (Caprifoliaceae). Phytotaxa, 125(1): 25–32.
  8. The National Archives. 2003. National flowers. Retrieved from http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20080909053639/http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page828.

 

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