Botanical project


The rustlepip plant, (Lat. Amphorafonia domestica Maroìs) is special. Starting with its appearance that is hardly reminding of any plant we know. A large, thickened stem, standing on striped roots with a single flower on the top of the stem. This flower is not even a real flower, its just a formation of thick, wood like leaves.

Underneath this fake flower the real flowers grow, tiny flowers that only appear when the conditions are right. Above all there are no green leaves growing on this plant, only in the beginning a sprout will grow green leaves that wither and fall of when the plant grows to a certain size. In these early stages the plant needs all that other plants also need: water, sunlight and a substrate.

However, as soon as the rustlepip plant has risen from the soil by lifting its stem by means of its striped roots, it no longer requires any of the above mentioned resources. Here is where it begins to obtain its energy from sound.

I know, strange isn’t it?
But wait till you read and see more about this botanical oddity!

Original text by: Prof. Dr. Heike Beismann
Translated with DeepL

The systematic classification of Ampho is not easy, even though morphologically there is a clear similarity to the redbud family and here especially to the myrmecophilous species such as Hydnophytum formicarum (Jack) and Myrmecodia platytyrea (Jack). Ecologically, too, some parallels can be drawn. Only recently have genetic markers clearly confirmed the species’ affiliation with the redbud family, and the systematics of the species are now as follows:

Kingdom                             Plantae

Clade                                    Angiospermae

Clade                                    Dicotyle

Clade                                    Asterids

Order                                   Gentianales

Family                                  Rubiaceae

Genus                                  Amphorafonia

Species                                Amphorafonia domestica

Scientific name                 Amphorafonia domestica Maroìs

Illustrations in modern scientific works appear very late, in 1930. A possibly first pictorial representation could be seen in the illustration by Engler and Prantl. Figure 12, detail drawing H from Fig. 453 could also be a still small A. domestica, contrary to the assumption that it is a seedling of Myrmecodia echinata. The cavity is clearly visible, the entrance to the first gallery is shown here, possibly an injury, whereby this opening was misinterpreted. The aerial roots show the typical shape. Only the leaves of the young plant seem to be different from those of adult specimens. A confusion seems possible, especially since the first description of A. domestica was only made in 1888 by Maroís.


Morphological representation of Hydnophytum formicarum (Jack. and Myrmecodia echinata. After Engler and Prantl, presumably from “Die natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien” from 1887 to 1915 (Source: Wikipedia, Myrmecophytes_GS453 Public Domain, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=646158)


Original text by: Prof. Dr. Heike Beismann
Translated with DeepL

General characteristics.

A. domestica is a perennial plant that forms strong woody tubers (in German “Kelch”, in Dutch “Kelk”, botanically: “Amphore”). The plant grows to a height of approx. 30 to 150 cm, depending on environmental influences. An amphora is always formed. The plants can reach a very old age. In botanical gardens, they have been proven to last up to 400 years. It is difficult to determine the age of plants from the wild, because even in climates with seasons, no clear annual rings are formed.



The plant forms a typical pear- or amphora-shaped thickening below the inflorescence. The so-called amphora is a defining characteristic and is always formed. It is a typical shoot tuber. The amphora is wide at the base and can reach diameters of a few centimetres to decimetres here, depending on the age of the plant, and tapers further upwards to below the inflorescence. It forms typical aerial roots at the base, some of which can also lift the amphora up above the substrate. Vegetative reproduction occurs via breeding buds, which are also formed on the amphora. Cavities always form in the amphora.

Aerial roots

The aerial roots are typically light-dark striped, in rare cases also monochrome, then mostly light. In younger specimens, the aerial roots serve to take up water, or breeding buds may develop from the roots. In older specimens they are transformed into supporting roots. Then they also lose the ability to take up water and completely take over the mechanical support function to lift the plant above the ground. This is particularly important for phonosynthesis, so that vibrations can be better absorbed. Three to five supporting roots are usually formed. Aerial roots, however, may persist further in the upper part of the amphora.


Leaves occur in A. domestica only in the form of the bracts that form the conspicuous. They are used for photosynthesis to a lesser extent and for water uptake to a greater extent. The actual energy production takes place via phonosynthesis. Cotyledons contain the energy necessary for germination and the first growth spurt and remain just below the soil surface during germination, the primary leaves are elongated oval, sometimes tapering to a weak tip.


The clearly visible “flower” with which the amphora ends after the formation of a thinner shoot part is a false flower. The clearly fleshy bracts form a visual display apparatus that can be quite varied in colour and shape. Here, several phenotypes can appear next to each other even within one site. After the aerial roots of older specimens have lost the ability to absorb water, the bracts take over the function of water and nutrient absorption from the air. This is done by means of special suction scales, as they are similarly formed in various bromeliad or tillandsia species.

Schijnbloem van "beestje".

The actual flowers are then located below the bracts directly on the stem (stem flowering/cauliflory). Here, the relationship to the redbud plants is particularly clear due to the fused five petals. Depending on the environmental conditions and the age of the plant, 10 to 50 such flowers can be formed. The so-called flower heart also plays an important role in the showiness of this false flower or pseudanthium. This tissue, which is essential for phonosynthesis, is located in the middle of the fleshy bracts. It thus serves not only to visually attract pollinators, but also to generate energy for the plant through phonosynthesis.

Original text by: Prof. Dr. Heike Beismann
Translated with DeepL

Calyx wall with tissue responsible for physiology/biochemistry.

Inside the amphora (calyx) is a cavity. The walls of the cavity are equipped with inwardly directed spines that are heavily woody. They consist of thick-walled stone cells (sclereids) that are extremely hard. These spines are not spines in the botanical sense, but projections (emergences) from the amphora wall. They may have been formed by the breakdown of intermediate tissue during juvenile development and remain as heavily lignified, former stone cell nests that now cover the inside as spiny emergences.

This inner morphology seems to be crucial for the ability of phonosynthesis, as sound is picked up via these antenna-like emergences and directed upwards through the narrower neck of the amphora towards the flower heart.

binnenste ruiskelk

Where the amphora wall appears to thicken inwards, the aerial roots form on the outside. In these areas also lies the formation area of the brood buds, which are formed at the base of the aerial roots. Through successive growth of the brood buds, the older brood buds are pushed outwards and repelled.

Original text by: Prof. Dr. Heike Beismann
Translated with DeepL


Human dispersal causes the seeds to settle naked on the uppermost soil sloughs or to be weakly covered with soil substrate. The seeds show weak dormancy, which can be broken quickly, especially if the seeds are grown in response to acoustic stimuli in the frequency spectrum of human speech. At germination, the seed absorbs water, swells and the internal tissues burst the seed coat. At the same time, the embryo begins to grow and break down the nutritive tissue in the cotyledons. The radicle is the first to penetrate the seed coat and anchor the young plant in the soil. The cotyledons remain just below the soil surface, while only the epicotyl stretches and emerges from the soil, raising the primary leaves above the soil surface. A. domestica thus shows typical hypogeous germination. As soon as enough energy has been obtained via the primary leaves, the flower heart forms, and further energy production is ensured via phonosynthesis. The typical rustle calyx develops, and the plant forms the first aerial roots. With the help of the aerial roots, it then slowly rises above the soil surface, while the primary root slowly withers away.



After pollination, typically by humans, each flower becomes a tiny fruit in which a roundish black seed surrounded by a thin pericarp is produced. The fruits are inedible for most living creatures.


Many plants can be shaped during their growing stages. Like for example tree shaping where a tree or shrub is forced to grow in a certain way. Growing a bonsai is also a good example of how to manipulate a plant into a desired shape.


A rustlepip (A. domestica) is like its green plant family, it can be shaped into the most fantastic forms imaginable. However, the shaping doesn’t take place by pruning, cutting or binding.
Sound will do the trick. Because a rustlepip derives its energy from soundwaves, one can influence growth by altering the direction of the sound, the volume and the sound itself by playing a variety of music or by speaking to the plant. As simple as this may seem, it takes a while to be able to grow a rustlepip plant in a pre-designed shape.


This lovely snail shaped rustlepip plant has been quite a challenge, not a shape for beginners. If you would like to own a shaped rustlepip plant, but don’t want to grow one yourself, you may consider buying one. For plants that are for sale, you can check my portfolio.

Prof. W.K. Leysius
Leysius on boat
It was Prof. W.K. Leysius who unearthed two fossilised rustlepip plants that date back to 13.500 BC.
Founder of the society of Amphorafonia owners, palaeontologist Prof. Walter K. Leysius was born on March 11, 1921, son of Kornelis Leysius and Antje Dekker. His father was a schoolteacher in Blokzijl, a town in the province Overijssel. Kornelis was an enthusiastic amateur biologist, after the example of Jac. P. Thijsse who also was a teacher. The deep love from his father of the natural world and al things growing, was an inspiration to the young Walter. A study of biology would have been a good choice, but palaeontology was the way forward for Walter. Funny fact that later in his life, the discovery of two fossilised rustlepips would make him take up a study in botany.


The fossils where found in the chalk quarry of Winterswijk in the year 1966. This discovery changed his life. He had to know everything about this strange fossilised specimen and so he started his research. In 1972 he founded the society of Amphorafonia owners where members would be able to share their knowledge and expertise and to undertake educational daytrips. He even had designed a medal to be presented to the member that had made a special contribution to the society. It’s sad to say that the society was no success. In total there only have ever been seven members and in 1978 the society was dissolved. One of the medals, the one that Walter reserved for himself, is now in my possession.

Pieter Ruyschhaer, botanist

P. Ruyschhaer
In the book “Cruydeboeck der byzondere ende seltsaame ghewassen” from author Pieter Ruyschhaer is a description of a most peculiar plant by the name: Amphorafonia domestica.

The book is about five hundred years old, written by Pieter Ruyschhaer, a botanist who lived from 1458 until 1524 in the province Gelderland, the Netherlands.

Ruyschhaer first discovered the Amphorafonia when someone showed him a woodprint depicting two noble ladies exchanging an Amphorafonia.

This inspired him to study the plant. His research took him to the tiny city of Bredevoort where, according to rumours, a man lived who was growing strange rustling plants. And indeed, there on the edge of a large forest surrounding the city he found a small cottage filled with rustlepip plants. The cottage belonged to a recluse, a man of few words but with a look of eternal bliss in his green eyes.  Probably the good man was in a constant state of euphoria due to the powerful toxins that came from his plants.

For Pieter Ruischhaer this was the beginning of a lifelong addiction to the Amphorafonia domestica, and with a beautiful specimen carefully wrapped in his cloak he travelled back to his home in Zutphen.

Agatha Maroìs

Agatha Maroís

The Latin name for the rustlepip plant is Amphorafonia domestica Maroìs, Maroìs stands for the citation author Agatha Maroìs. She was the first to describe the plant and give it its name. Agatha was born on January the 17th 1833 in Toronto Canada, then known as the city of York.

Her mother died when Agatha was just two months old, her father who was a surgeon, as an advertisement in “The North American” from the 7th June 1850 tells us, had no choice but to leave his only child in the care of nannies. After an education as a teacher Agatha takes a position in a small outpost in Saskatchewan.

Her keen interest in biology and botany is blossoming in the beautiful and abundant nature of the wild region of Canada. When a native woman presents to her a “Rustlepip”, the native word is sadly, unknown to me, she is immediately grasped by this strange but captivating plant that softly rustles when its gently moved from side to side.

In 1863 Agatha returns to Toronto and starts to learn all there is about botany before she starts her own research project to unravel the mysterious Rustlepip plant. In the year 1888 she finally publishes her scientific description of “Amphorafonia domestica Maroís”. In the same year, she proudly had her picture taken with the special Rustlepip that was given to her as a present, standing on a table next to her.

Els de Boer-Brethouwer

Foto van Els in atelier

In the picture you see me in my studio together with a rustlepip plant.
So, what can I tell you about me? Actually, apart from my love of growing rustlepips, collecting artefacts to do with rustlepips, painting and drawing rustlepips, I am dreadfully uninteresting and there is little to tell.
Take a look at my portfolio instead. If you like my work and want to buy something from my collection, then just send me an e-mail.

Foto van Els