Vegetable Sheep Facts
- This bizarre looking object actually represents a highly unusual variety of Angiosperm. In English, it holds the common name of the Vegetable Sheep. In the language of the Indigenous Peoples of its region, however, it bears the traditional name of tutāhuna.
- The official scientific name for the plant, meanwhile, remains that of Raoulia eximia. The remarkable flora received that appellation during its first recorded formal recognition as a species, in 1864. It formerly held several other technical names, as well.
- Researchers currently place the plant in the Aster Family. The renowned British botanist, Joseph Dalton Hooker, holds the distinction of being the one to recognize it. He was also a highly respected explorer, and close personal friend of Charles Darwin.
- For the moment, the magnificent Vegetable Sheep appears to be maintaining a stable population base. That further seems to hold true throughout its native range. The IUCN, therefore, presently has no listing for it on the organization’s Red List.
- The fabulous flora nevertheless faces the same potential threats as every other species. Its small range makes it especially vulnerable to habitat loss. Its greatest threat, though, most likely consists of climate change, much like all other life on earth today.
Vegetable Sheep Physical Description
The amazing Vegetable Sheep qualifies as one of those wonders of Nature one must see to believe. It also has an outward appearance that’s difficult to accurately describe. That’s partly because, like its relatives, it has a highly variable, as well as quite irregular, general shape.
As a general principle, though, individual specimens attain roughly equal measurements in height and width. More specifically, a typical full growth size equals about 3.3 ft ( 1m) in both dimensions. Exceptionally sized specimens do occur, though only rarely.
Its branches develop as short, but relatively very stout in structure. These, however, develop extremely close together. In point of fact, its branches are so tightly packed that the leaves of the plant can’t even be seen. They’re also tiny, being only a few millimeters long.
So compact is the outward portion of the Vegetable Sheep, in fact, that its buds never open. The general coloring, however, remains apparent to the eye. This most commonly develops as various shades of either gray or white. Shades of green also manifest occasionally.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Angiosperm
- Class: Eudicots
- Order: Asterales
- Family: Asterceae
- Genus: Raoulia
- Species: R. eximia
Vegetable Sheep Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
Most unfortunately, the astonishing Vegetable Sheep evolved as native to a highly restricted range. That’s due to the fact that its only known concentration appears on the island country of New Zealand. Even there, though, its range remains further restricted.
That’s because this marvel of Nature only lives on one of the two islands. In this case, it appears on the one named South Island. There, the unusual flora mostly makes appearances from northern Southland to Marlborough. That places it east of the main divide.
Its potential habitat remains further limited by its own nature. That’s due to the fact that it evolved to live at a range of altitudes that runs from alpine to sub-alpine. In these regions, it appears in extremely rugged areas. These include cliff faces, and spots of scree and talus.
The flowers of the amazing Vegetable Sheep, such as they are, generally develop between November and January. The fruits that follow do so most typically from January to April. Researchers still know very little about how the Angiosperm achieves its pollination.
Both the attention-grabbing common name in English and its original native name have the same origin. These derive from its appearance, said by some to resemble a sheep. Its limbs develop so tightly packed that one can sit on the plant without doing harm.