June 4

This Sneaky Flower Pretends To Be Decaying Beetle

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Thomas Rupp, a Ph.D. student at the Paris-London University of Salzburg noticed as he was walking through a forest that when he saw a butterfly there must be some Aristolochia plants near.  

According to a WIRED article Rupp found, “the plant’s unusual flowers lying hidden among rocks and leaves. They are dark merlot red, and they look like an inflated bulb connected to a narrow tube tipped by a small pore called a stoma.” 

These flowers trick pollinators into pollination. But not A. microstoma. They do this by giving off the stench of dead beetles to lure them in. Rupp’s team is researching how this strategy works to trap unsuspecting flies.  

The A. microstoma puts flies through a crazy journey with getting them to pollinate. In the WIRED article they say, “when an insect crawls into a plant during its female phase, it can only move forward through a tunnel lined with small dense hairs that lead to an inflated bulb. The hairs function as one-way valves – there’s no going back. They trap their pollinators for about a day. After that, the plant transitions into its male phase. The hairs shrink. The fly rushes to escape. And the flower dusts it with pollen on its way out.” 

Researchers found that the main way the flowers lure the flies in is by different types of stenches. The theory is that the A. microstoma has evolved over time to entice Phoridae flies because their favorite stench is decaying beetles.  

This plant is interesting because it needs to continuously trick the same pollinators to come back even though there is no reward for them.  

Plants like these show how species have evolved in the smallest ways and it’s awesome! 

Photo Source: WIRED

Lexi Braicovich
Marketing Coordinator

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