A gift that keeps on giving – flowers from Mother’s Day 

Here I share an incredible source of microscopic biodiversity; which others in the Foldscope community will find fruitful to explore as well. I am often looking for ponds and lakes to sample single cell Protozoa I can find. I truly enjoy watching these “little machines” and the pleasure of finding new ones is immense. 

So what if I told you that you don’t have to go anywhere to find these little animacules. What if this biodiversity actually flew around the world and landed on your dinner table – for you to explore. 

On Mother’s Day, I received some flowers. I put them in a vase (with water) and forgot about them. Two/three weeks later I noticed surface bacteria film on water. 

I looked closely with what was in the water – and to my surprise; found a whole world of microscopic biodiversity – all in an old flower vase. Here is a close up.. 

In the series of posts; I will describe everything I could find – but suffice to say, I am thrilled with what I found. Here I share just one video to give you a feel for density and diversity of what’s present. 

For me to even think about the fact that I had this diversity of ciliate biology sitting on my dinner table for days and days; is mind boggling. As @Matt often says – we live in a jungle of its own kind; if we care to look. I found my jungle in my flower vase. 

Just like me – you are wondering where these things came from. Firstly; you only need one – since in the right condition -most single celled organisms replicate like mad. If you think about the trajectory flowers take to come to your home; it’s quiet varied. It might have been plucked in Florida, packaged in Arizona; washed with lake water in Colorado and sold in California. Thus it experience and collects biodiversity from all kind of places; and many spore stages for these organisms will remain inactive – and when you add water; they come to life. 

Read one summary for where “American” flowers actually come from? 

Quote from this link: 


Today some 78 percent of the 4 billion cut flower stems purchased in the U.S. — including the roses bought on Valentine’s Day — come from Colombia and Ecuador, where they are grown in large production greenhouses, then harvested, sorted and shipped out around the world. Roses are the most important traded product of the cutflower industry and play a key role in the $20 billion U.S. floral industry.

Another link on flower trade worth reading: 


So since I got roses for Mother’s Day – I am probably exploring Colombian micro-biodiversity. What a world we live in. 

Next time I get flowers; I will always wait a couple weeks and look closer. Who knows what is hitch hiking the flowers? 



Ps: I will add individual posts on species I found in this flower vase (so far). If you can identify any of the ciliates in the video above; please add comments. I would love to hear from you. 

4 Comments Add yours

  1. laksiyer says:

    @Manu, Wow. Wow. I was waiting for the name of the source the previous time you posted a related video. A flower vase!!! At first glance I easily see 3 species of which one is a flafellate with a super long flagellum and 2 other ciliates. I am trawling through my protozoa books, but the details are so exquisite that these might be the only examples known of these species. Why dont we start a naming convention for single-celled eukaryotes, which we could then correlate with known names. It should be one that is retrievable by search. Maybe an abbreviation followed by a number? If you use decide on such a convention, I will use it too.

    There were so many other things happening including cell division. I am sure you have devised traps and more interesting questions. Cant wait to read more.

  2. Manu Prakash says:

    Thanks for the encouragement @Laks.

    I really like the idea of a naming convention for single cell eukaryotes. This way; we will be able to reference back to observations – even if we have not correlated it to known species.

    Here is what I suggest:

    Where ABCDE stands for the 5 number identifier for a microcosmos post (so looking at an identifier – the post can be easily found. For example; this post is https://microcosmos.foldscope.com/?p=16599; so the identifier will be 16599. ab should refer to specific figure as a single image from the video frame (which we should label) in that post. Ciliate/Flagellet/Ameboid.. or other reference should be used for some visual context. We can add a naming convention with last name as the person who took the data (and so we can contact the person for where the sample was collected etc). NM refers to name; so Laks would be LK and mine can be MP and Matt Rossi can be MR and so on and so forth.

    This is just a suggestion – but I do believe we need to start this.

    Also; after a lot of work; I think I have one of the species – about to write a post about the same.


  3. laksiyer says:

    @Manu. This is a great convention. The tag has to be in the figure legend. You will start seeing me use this pretty soon.

  4. Matthew Rossi says:

    @Manu I’m spending the day catching up on old posts (slow day at work) and my word what an incredible one this is. I’m hooked on your video (and intrigued by this naming convention you and Laks are proposing). Onward to look at the ciliates in a later post of yours.

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