Monday, June 15, 2009

Sex and the single beetle

Flowers change color after being pollinated, British science writer Ed Yong tells us today at It's Not Exactly Rocket Science. In fact, several hundred flowering plants have this ability. His post includes pictures of a tiny legume whose change is very dramatic. Not only does it change after pollination, but if the plant subsequently senses that it's not pollinated usefully, it returns to its original color and form to attract additional pollinators.

I was reminded of a lecture on various pollinations in one of my early botany courses. The prof showed slides, but I found even better images showing the flower's progression. The Giant Amazon Water Lily blooms pristine pearl-white during the day. That night it opens wider and lets out a scent that calls to beetles everywhere. The beetles flock to the lily and have an all-night orgy, drinking and mating and mating and eating almost to exhaustion. They haul themselves away as sunrise approaches, and after sunrise the flower has turned a tattered red-pink. But think how efficiently it has been pollinated!

If that water lily ever reminds you of yourself, and you drag yourself into work and someone says, "Boy -- you look like I feel!" tell them they should be so lucky.

The images come from the Cotswolds Wildlife Park and Gardens, where they successfully grow Amazonian flora by heating the water. Unfortunately, the site does not include an action photo of the beetles.

No comments: