The reproduction of many flowers depends on the perfect alignment of their sex organs and nectar tubes for a visiting insect to pollinate them.
Mechanical accidents happen to plants quite frequently (they are stepped on or a branch falls on them) and, in some cases, can prevent the plant from attracting pollinating insects. Faced with this problem, a new study explains how some flowers are able to fix the problem .
Regain your alignment
According to new research from the University of Portsmouth published in the journal New Phytologist , some damaged flowers were bent and twisted into the best possible position to ensure successful reproduction within 10-48 hours of being damaged .
But some are better at regaining their alignment after being damaged than others: bilaterally symmetrical flowers , those in which the left and right sides mirror each other, such as dragonaria, orchid, and sweet pea. In some cases, bilaterally symmetrical flowers can accurately relocate their stigma, a sex organ, after injury.
Almost 95% of the bilaterally examined symmetrical flowers moved after injury to restore the plant’s ability to attract pollinators. They basically used four strategies to do it:
- Bending of the main supporting stem of a cluster of flowers.
- Bending of individual flower stalks (most likely on long stalks).
- Rotation of individual flower stalks (most likely on short stalks). Twisting or bending the sex organs of the flower.
As explained by Professor of Ecology and Evolution Scott Armbruster from the University of Portsmouth:
This little-known aspect of plant evolution is fascinating and tells us much more than we knew about how plants behaviorally adapt to changes in their environment, including mechanical accidents.