Freelance Science Writer & Editor

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If the Kardashians were endangered plants (Part 2)

Viki Cramer - Monday, June 05, 2017

In this, the second post on my thought-experiment on which species the Kardashians would be if they were endangered plants, I turn my attention to the Kardashian brother, the Jenner sisters and Caitlyn Jenner. And in this episode, they’re all Australian endangered species.



Rob Kardashian is the Western Underground Orchid (Rhizanthella gardneri)


Rob Kardashian has largely withdrawn from the public’s view after being diagnosed with diabetes and gaining weight. The Western Underground Orchid has withdrawn so much from public view that he lives his entire life underneath the sandy soils of the Western Australian wheatbelt. Only when flowering does he peep his head above the soil, but even then remains hidden under leaf and bark litter. The Western Underground Orchid achieves his life away from the spot/sun light through a codependent three-way relationship with a parasitising root fungus and broom bush (Melaleuca uncinata). Rob has a child with former partner Blac Chyna, whose former partner Tyga has been in an on-again/off-again relationship with Rob’s sister Kylie. Or something like that.

Kendall Jenner is Large-Flowered Short-Styled Grevillea (Grevillea brachystylis subsp. grandis)


Kendall is the older of the two sisters fathered by Bruce Jenner. She’s a high-earning fashion model that runs with the latest pack of ‘it’ girls. Despite this, she’s considered the most private of the Kardashian women. At two-metres tall, the lean and leggy branches of a mature LFSS Grevillea stand tall over the kikuyu, couch and watsonia that conspire to suppress her early growth. She bears the beauty of her rich red flowers with grace but, like the career of many a supermodel, her life expectancy may only be ten years. She’s kept a little too much to herself and is only found in an area of ten square kilometres in the south-west of Western Australia. A dedicated team of researchers are focused on lifting her status from critically endangered.

Kylie Jenner is Ormeau Bottle Tree (Brachychiton sp. Ormeau)


Both Kylie Jenner and Ormeau Bottle Tree are known for their hourglass figures and perhaps not being as famous and/or spectacular as other members of their family. Both are known for morphological change: Jenner has built a cosmetics company around the fame of her filler-enhanced lips; Ormeau Bottle Tree’s juvenile foliage is deeply lobed with long fingers but becomes more simple upon maturity. Ormeau Bottle Tree’s selection as one of the thirty plant species listed in the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Strategy bodes well for her increased recognition in the public eye as the bottle tree to watch. Kylie Jenner may be getting her own show, but we all know that she’ll never be the Kylie.

Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner is Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis)


Bruce Jenner became a national sporting hero after he won the decathlon at the 1976 Montreal Olympics with a world-record score. He married Kris Kardashian in 1991; their divorce was finalised in 2015, the year that Jenner came out as a trans woman. She completed sex reassignment surgery in early 2017. Although popularly referred to as a pine, Wollemi Pine is not actually one, but a member of the Araucariaceae and related to Araucaria and Agathis (see Kris Jenner in Part 1). Wollemi Pine was discovered in a narrow, steep-sided gorge north-west of Sydney in 1994. Jenner has been called the most famous openly transgender woman in the world. Wollemi Pine is the most famous Lazarus species (presumed extinct but then rediscovered) of plant in Australia. While male cones can form on both juvenile and adult phase branches of the Wollemi Pine, female cones are only produced on adult phase branches.

If I’ve learnt one thing from this investigation into the lives of the Kardashians, it’s that Bruce didn’t play Flash Gordon in the 1980 movie of the same name. All these years I thought it was him but it was actually Sam J. Jones.

It’s a cliché to say that Australia’s flora is unique. But hey, since we’ve been talking reality TV here, I’m figuring that a generous serve of cliché is part of the deal. Scientists estimate that there’s just under 24,000 species of plants in this wide brown land and 86% of them are found nowhere else.

A rather staggering 1271 species of plants are listed as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable under Australian legislation. That’s almost three-times the combined number of mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs, fishes and ‘other animals’ listed in these threat categories. In nearly every case, it’s the quadfecta of habitat loss, invasive weeds, too much grazing and the wrong sort of fire that are putting these plant species in danger of being scratched from the evolutionary race. Thirty-six have already been destroyed.

IMAGE CREDITS
All original images of the Kardashians and Jenners via Wikimedia Commons. Images of Kim and Kourtney by Glenn Francis www.PacificProDigital.com (CC BY-SA 3.0). Image of Kris by Jim Jordan (CC BY-SA 2.0). Image of Kendall by Georges Biard (CC BY-SA 3.0). Image of Kylie by KathyaG.2002 (CC BY-SA 4.0). Image of Caitlyn by US Mission to the UN. Image design by Viki Cramer.

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Science Writer and Editor Perth Australia
Viki Cramer   PhD BSc
Freelance science writer specialising in ecology and the environment.
Ecologist - Science Communicator - Editor
Perth, Australia
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