West Indian Lilac (S/F)

WestIndianLilac
Flowers and leaves of the West Indian lilac. Image from Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

West Indian lilac (Tetrazyiga bicolor) is a flowering plant species of the glory bush family, Melastomataceae. Its genus is probably polyphyletic; the name means “four-hornbeam” in reference to its shape. The specific epithet for this species means “two-color.” Also called Florida clover ash or Florida tetrazygia, it is native to the southern region of Florida and the Caribbean. It is the only member of its genus whose native geographic range is not limited to the Antilles, and has been introduced widely in warm regions as an ornamental plant. In some areas, it has become an invasive weed. This plant is best known for the toxic effects of its berries in S/F canon, a trait which the plant does not possess in real life.

Description

West Indian lilac can reach a height of nearly thirty feet, and its flowers are usually white or pink, with oval-shaped brown fruit that often attracts birds. The fruit, however, is toxic to some animals. It is multi-trunked, with brown or red stems. Its leaves are lanceolate and evergreen, reaching up to eight inches in length.

Growth

The shrub grows from seeds, which are dispersed by animals that eat the berries.

Sexual Dimorphism

Tetrazygia bicolor is monoecious, bearing both male and female flowers at once. As of such, it does not exhibit sexual dimorphism.

Habitat
Preferred Habitat

This shrub favors subtropical wetland. It can be found growing in partial shade and prefers acidic or alkaline soil, and can also grow in sand, loam, or clay substrates. However, it is somewhat drought-tolerant and can survive in well-drained soil.

Isla Nublar

InGen introduced West Indian lilac to Isla Nublar as a decorative plant in Jurassic Park. While its range over the island is mostly unknown, it was seen in the primary Triceratops paddock. This is a region of well-drained dusty soil, though there is a river in the area. While this is not the typical environment for West Indian lilac, it is not impossible for it to grow in this kind of substrate.

Confirmed (red) and hypothetical (purple) distribution of T. bicolor circa 1993

It is unlikely that Masrani Global Corporation would have permitted this plant to continue growing in dinosaur habitats of Jurassic World once its poisonous effects were documented, but it is ultimately not known if any West Indian lilac still existed on Isla Nublar in 2015. Regardless, any remaining plants were probably destroyed in the June 23, 2018 volcanic eruption of Mount Sibo.

Isla Sorna

There is no evidence that Tetrazygia bicolor was introduced to Isla Sorna.

Other

This plant is originally native to the Everglades, and can be found in southern Florida as well as several islands in the Caribbean Sea. It is also widely cultivated as an ornamental plant in warm regions of the United States and other parts of the world. Although it does not survive in cold regions, it can be grown indoors or in botanical gardens.

Ecology
Activity Patterns

During the day, the stomata of the leaves open to take in carbon dioxide. This is used as one of the components of the photosynthesis reaction. At night, the microscopic stomata close up.

Diet and Feeding Behavior

Like all plants, water is vital to the survival of West Indian lilac, but it can survive in drier soil. It takes in carbon dioxide as well as water, using sunlight as a source of energy to recombine these compounds into carbohydrates. Oxygen is produced as a waste product.

Social Behavior

Most plants are capable of limited interaction with one another using chemical signals. They may influence one another’s growth, warn of predators, and other actions. However, the specific ways that this particular plant influences its neighbors is poorly studied.

Reproduction

Flowers are fertilized by insects and other small animals, which grow into the berries. It flowers during the spring and summer. Berries are produced from this plant in abundance, and are eaten by birds. When the bird defecates, the undigested seed from the berry is dropped into the soil and germinates, growing into a new plant.

Communication

Plants use chemical signals, such as pheromones, to communicate with one another. They also use chemical signals transmitted through their roots. West Indian lilac may utilize these methods, but little research has gone into it.

Ecological Interactions

The berries of West Indian lilac are poisonous, but not fatal, to some dinosaurs. The brown-colored berries are easily overlooked when they fall among similarly-colored stones, causing dinosaurs to accidentally ingest them while foraging for gastroliths (smooth stones that aid the digestive process of herbivores). Symptoms of West Indian lilac poisoning include microvesicles on the tongue, imbalance, disorientation, and labored breathing.

During the Isla Nublar Incident, Dr. Ellie Sattler discovered that the sick Triceratops was not eating the West Indian lilac shrubs, but was accidentally ingesting the poisonous berries while foraging for gastroliths. It would regurgitate the old, smooth stones and, while ingesting new stones, would ingest the berries in the process.

Cultural Significance
Symbolism

Glory bushes are also known as glory trees or princess flowers. They are not often used symbolically or in art.

In Captivity
T. bicolor cultivated on Isla Nublar, Costa Rica. This plant is being examined for evidence of foraging by captive animals, as it was believed to be the cause of gastric poisoning.

This plant is often cultivated in southern Florida and the Caribbean as an ornamental plant, and can be seen in yards where it draws various small birds. It is evergreen, flowering during the spring and summer. This plant is mildly popular because it thrives in a variety of soil conditions; while it is native to subtropical wetlands, it will tolerate drought conditions very effectively and can survive in well-drained soils. Preferring partial shade, it can withstand acidic or alkaline soils, and can also grow in sand, clay, or loam.

The main condition it cannot compromise on is temperature. It is not tolerant of cold conditions, since it is native to the subtropics, and should be kept indoors if temperatures drop below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).

Science

Not much research has gone into this plant, though InGen documented health effects on de-extinct herbivorous dinosaurs. Since the seeds are spread by modern birds, the toxic effect must only occur in certain species, probably those that became extinct before the West Indian lilac evolved.

Politics

It may be affected by local regulations surrounding introduced plant life. In some areas, such as Oahu, members of the glory bush family have become invasive and must be removed by authorities.

Resources

Humans often grow this plant for its attractive flowers. InGen introduced West Indian lilac to Isla Nublar as a decorative plant in the 1980s or 1990s, effectively helping it spread into a new environment. On the island, the plant was of pharmacological importance to InGen’s veterinarians due to its effects on de-extinct animal life.

In real life, this plant is not actually poisonous, but humans generally still do not eat the fruits. It is, instead, used only for its aesthetic qualities, or to attract small birds.

Safety

This plant is not actually believed to be poisonous to humans, but it is still good practice not to eat any plants you are unfamiliar with. Since, in S/F canon, this plant has a toxic effect on de-extinct animals, it is possible that the film’s version of Tetrazygia bicolor might be poisonous to other animals as well.

Behind the Scenes

It should be noted that “West Indian lilac” can refer to both Tetrazygia bicolor and Melia azedarach, the latter of which was featured in the novel while the former appears only in the film. In real life, there is no evidence that the berries of T. bicolor are poisonous, while the fruit of M. azedarach is known to be toxic. This is possibly an error on the part of the filmmakers, who likely confused the two plants.

Disambiguation Links

West Indian Lilac (C/N)