Sunday, February 1, 2009

Wave of the Future

Why did the corn plant dial 911? Because she wanted to report a stalker!!!

For many young males in north central Alberta, a wave from a pretty girl is all that is required is all that is required to arouse enough interest to initiate a conversation and perhaps an evening out. In the plant world, pretty flowers use the same approach with similar results.

As surprising as it may seem, competition for a date in the horticultural world is extremely intense with individuals pulling out all the stops in an effort to reproduce. Different species use vibrant colours, exquisite aromas and most amazing of all, seductive movement to entice pollinators to stop by “for a good time”

In a study of sea campion, a common wildflower on the Welsh coast, scientists discovered that mobile flowers are not only visited by more insects but they produce more seeds as well. While the rooted plant cannot actually move from place to place in the soil, the flower heads actually have a large range of motion as they waft in the breeze. Researchers determined that the longer the flower stalk the greater the degree of movement.

But excessive flirtation has it drawbacks. While the wavy flowers with longer stems attracted more insects, it was harder for the bugs to land on the blossoms that exhibited excessive oscillation. To make matters worse, the longer straws tended to break more frequently in extremely windy conditions, thus reducing their reproductive capacity to zero. It appears the sea campion that is most successful at setting seeds are those individuals that exhibit a perfect wobble.

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