Q. Since Chondrodendron tomentosum is dioecious, does anyone know, out of curiosity, is the one at the NYBG male or female?
Regarding your first question, I have conferred with my colleauges in the Conservatory, and the plant hasn't flowered in the 6 years we have had it. We grow the plant to educate, but due to space restraints, prune the vine so often that it is never given the opportunity to flower. The flowers are not showy, so we don’t take the precautions we would with other plants to ensure flowering occurs.
Regarding your second question, it's almost impossible to say for sure why a plant has developed a certain defense. It's possible that a plant had a mutation to make increased amounts of d-tubocurarine, and over time animals learned to avoid the plant because of the toxin. If you read scientific literature related to d-tubocurarine, you may come accross some better theories! Unfortunately, we don't have a medical focus at this library, so I don't have access to that literature. You might try reaching out to the New York Academy of Medicine.
I hope that you enjoy your visit in July! Thanks for your question.