The crowned frog of India, under the mistletoe

The cover of The Economist magazine’s Christmas edition features a rather confident-looking frog, sporting a small golden crown, under a sprig of mistletoe. It looks gratuitously frivolous, and it is, partly. But the frog image is taken from a very serious essay inside on the plight of frogs, particularly the frogs of the Western Ghats, in southern India.


The frog in question is just one of many species being studied by Sathyabhama Biju Das, an amphibian researcher at Delhi University. He is documenting frog species of the region, aiming to discover as many species as possible, as so many remain undocumented and at risk of extinction before discovery. All good stuff. But for more about Mr Biju’s excellent work you’ll have to buy the Economist, because I want to concentrate on that cover picture.

Why? Because it’s obviously been photo-shopped. And no, I’m not talking about the crown on the frog – that’s too obvious (and maybe Indian frogs do sport crowns – I’m not ruling that out, or in, but zoology can be very surprising…). No, I’m thinking of that mistletoe – which, if real and unaltered, is a botanical miracle.


It is, of course, real mistletoe and not plastic, that’s clear from the berries and leaves. So what’s my worry?


It’s the berries between the leaves in the front sprig: ¬†Berries form one internode back from the terminal bud, so are never at the ends of branches, and rarely between the leaves. The two sprigs behind show the accurate arrangment – with the berries behind the leaves and only a bud between the leaves themselves.


So the berries in the foreground have been ‘shopped in. Shocking!


If you don’t believe me look at the flower scars, or rather the lack of them, on that very front berry. If it’s in a true position it would have the flower scar (a distinctive 5-spot scar – see the berries behind) facing the camera – but it’s not there, there’s just a hint of it facing downwards. It makes the berry look unnaturally ‘blind’.


This false placing of berries between the leaves is a common phenomenon in Christmas imagery on cards and wrapping paper (artists seem to think it looks better – not sure why) but those are usually paintings or other artwork. It’s unusual to see this done in a photo – and here it’s fairly well done – I’d give it 6/10 for plausibilty. If they’d got that flower scar right I might even give it 8/10. But never full marks, as the arrangement just isn’t botanically possible.


This’ll be the last mistletoe post before Christmas – so have a good one, and be careful under that mistletoe – not all frogs turn into princes (or princesses)


PS Within the Economist’s frog article, by the way, Mr Biju is revealed to be a plant scientist who turned to frogs because ‘ plants are very boring’. He’s obviously never heard of mistletoe(s)…

PPS Apparently this is the 300th post in my mistletoe blog Рwhich has been running, in a variety of hosting identities (but all  consolidated into this wordpress version) since October 2004.

2 thoughts on “The crowned frog of India, under the mistletoe

  1. and rightly pointed out Jonathan!! you know its a bug bear of mine! (and Jakes)

    Merry Chrimble to you and yours aswell!

    See you soon

    Blessings of the Green and white stuff, with the berries in the correct place and an addition of the male plant for balance


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