In the preceding post I mentioned the persisting inflorescences that are so characteristic of this species. When you look back at that post you will notice that even young plants produce them.
One cannot help but wonder what purpose these outgrowths serve apart from the obvious one: supporting the flowers and fruits (which could be done with a far less complicated and heavy structure). We have to bear in mind that these plants live in difficult circumstances and cannot afford unnecessary extravagances. In other words, there must be a proper return on investment and the best return would be one that helps the plants to survive.
To my mind, the persisting inflorescence has three functions:
— It keeps browsing predators away.
— It helps shade the plant and thereby lower the temperature.
— The intricate structure of branches diminishes the speed of the usually hot and desiccating wind.
It is interesting that these functions have their strongest influence at the place where they are most helpful: the growing tips of the stems, with their soft and tender young leaves.
More pictures to follow.