If there ever has been life on Mars – or even if there still is life (which to me sounds more likely) – it cannot be weirder than our own aliens.
Anacampseros namaquensis buds bend down after each flowering, that is, they look like buds, but are not, they have just flowered their short two-and-a-half-hours-flowering, close tight as a bud and bend until being perfectly horizontal.
19 days later they make a second move. And again 90º until pointing into the zenith. This is when you know that you must be all attention. The next day, if weather is warm and dry, there takes place a bizarre show for those who watch closely.
Both sepals tear off from the base of the flower. They shrivel considerably, taking with them the gauzy petals that look as if pressed for a 3D-herbarium.
See both scars, the inferior, where the sepals inserted and the superior, with some fibres left, marks the abscission for the petals. You can see the green capsule – well, as green as there can be green on Mars – and take a good look, for it won’t remain long like this. In fact, the ‘veins’ you see will be the remaining latticework. Focus on the small notches at the base of the capsule…
…where the first tear slit appears. The outer tissue of the capsule will gradually open like an inverted flower.
Eventually, a martian gust of wind, and the whole hat flies away.
After a few hours all that remains is a filigran skeleton container, an inner layer of epidermis and, of course, the reason for all this effort: the seeds. The baskets look like being ‘half-filled’ and contain approximately 75 sculptured seeds.
Instead of drilling holes in martian debris, rover Curiosity should use one of its cameras to focus on tiny remnants of life like Anacapseros hats. Look at that landscape – sure they grow out there somewhere!
Though it could be that Mars has never seen something as extra-martian as an Anacampseros seed capsule.
I’d love to beam a basketful of fresh Anacampseros seeds up to Aeolis Mons; but I’m afraid that would be considered adulteration of local flora.