Humans are kinky as hell. Animals have their own sexual fancies. But did you know that the plant world is also filled with freaky reproductive systems? There’s everything from fake sex to hermaphroditism…
It might be a cool-looking flower, but its design makes for a pretty macabre pollination process. The determined bee scuttles under the upper flap. However, the closed-off top makes the inside dark and disorienting – making the bee creep around to find an exit and therefore covering itself with pollen.
Thankfully, there’s a small hole in the bottom that lets it escape. When it finds a female flower, it does the same thing, but there is no way out – and it usually dies inside.
Two words … animal toilet.
The Nepenthes Lowii is what we call a “pitcher plant”. The general idea is to contain an insect within the plant so that it will be covered in pollen.
The problem though, in the mountainous parts of Borneo, there’s not much in the way of buzzy friends or other nutrients. The solution? The top flap grows upwards and oozes a sweet, sticky substance. Animals (such as tree shrews) sit on the lip of the flower and eat … and the pitcher part catches their poo. Yummy.
Time for some sexual deception or, in the case of flowers, pseudocopulation! Despite their delicate appearance, orchids are amazing plants that have spread themselves around the entire world with crazy reproductive adaptations.
One example, the Bee Orchid, is particularly interesting (and teasing). While many flowers offer nectar as a reward for pollination, it has evolved to present one of the petals to look, smell, and even feel like a female bee. So, when the eager male comes calling, it tries to get busy. The poor thing ends up sexually frustrated and just goes on to the next flower (to be teased again but pass of the sticky pollen it got from the orchid before).
Anything that grows in an unhospitable climate needs some sort of edge. The skunk cabbage has a unique one to combat snow (which, as anyone who knows northern climates, understands how crazy changeable they can be).
The trick? Thermogenesis – which means it can create its own heat, therefore melting the snow around it. As for the name, it’s well deserved. When the flower blooms or is crushed, it gives off a horrible odor.
Why grow in the sunshine when you can spend your life underground, stealing from other plants?
Yep, the “Jackal Food” stretches its subterranean tendrils to latch onto a host plant and suck out the nutrients. The only other thing it does is poke its stinky petals out of the ground to attract carrion insects.
Even if you aren’t a botanical enthusiast, you most likely have heard of a corpse flower. The big baddies stink to high heaven! Some even take on a dead look with mottled, sickly-looking petals or leaves (along with oozing things that will make most vomit).
Why? Carrion insects (that thrive off of dead things) smell the gaggy perfume and come running, do their thing, and then move on to complete the pollination process.
YARETA, ATACAMA DESERT
Deserts aren’t always hot. They can be dry and cold as well. They are unforgiving places for flora and fauna alike. So, it’s to be expected that anything growing there has some really cool survival techniques.
The Yareta is something out of a sci-fi novel – big, green, and bulbous. Technically a kind of evergreen, its shape is meant to conserve heat and moisture. It also grows REALLY slowly. Bonus, the tiny flowers are hermaphroditic.
Butterwort petals look lovely – it’s the leaves you’ve got to worry about. They ooze sticky stuff that traps insects … and dissolves them. These nutrients are part of what allows this plant to survive.
I remember my emo/goth/whatever phase where I wanted everything in black. I was so upset that I couldn’t get any black flowers that didn’t come in silk form. It turns out I just needed to go to Mexico, where these droopy, withered-looking flowers grow.
The odd thing is that it absorbs both UV and visible light waves. This means that birds or insects won’t be attracted to the color reception. Scientists still don’t know how it propagates, so it’s quite a mysterial addition to the “freaky reproductive systems” category.
Any more plants with freaky reproductive systems we should know? She in the comments!