Archive for May 18th, 2008

Epipactis helleborineAttracting pollinators is not only about being colourful but to produce a decent scent. With decent, it is not necessarily meant a perfume-like odour, but something attracting a pollinator. This may be a highly specific task, because when you aim to attract specific pollinators, you decrease the odds that it will disperse your precious gametes to any other plant. If you succeed to make it loyal and visit your own kind next, it will prove highly rewarding because you have some hope to sire offspring instead of wasting pollen…

Epipactis atrorubens

 And that’s what Epipactis helleborine (left) is doing. It’s producing a scent that attracts a rather specific pollinator (well, “specific” with regard to its pollinating behaviour at least), common wasps. This scent is similar to compounds emitted by herbivore-damaged plants. Wasps are thus lured into thinking they will find some fleshy caterpillar, and go their way to the orchid. Hereafter, they still obtain a somewhat interesting reward (a sweet nectar), that may lead to the wasp further visiting Epipactis helleborine. But it’s still a lure, not a fair game. Apparently, a closely related species also mainly pollinated by wasps, Epipactis purpurata, is using the same strategy, while another species within the Genus, Epipactis atrorubens (right), doesn’t (it is specialized on being pollinated by bees, which are contributing to the flower scent too, but for another reason ;).

Read the complete story at Not exactly Rocket Science (but still with rocking posts) here

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