Sunday, November 9, 2008

Magnolia Rognolfiana

Q: Are there any flowers more dynamic in behavior than the insects that pollinate them?

A: Yes, at least one. The self-fertile Rognolfi’s magnolia (M. Rognolfiana) flourishes only in climates subject to intermittent rainfall. The bloated, lethargic female of the Sloth cricket species prefers the low-hanging blossoms of this plant as her permanent shelter. In fact, the most vigorous act of her life occurs when instinct drives her to heave herself beneath the frond-like tepals. Soon the blossoms will dust her rotund husk with pollen specially adapted to cling fast to the chitin. When the rain comes, the drop-pelted flower gently batters the insect, connecting the pistil to the pollen grains, and mating is completed. Thus, in this case, a pollinator is required merely to be present, while all the necessary movement is the plant’s duty.

From: Nylo Jamesolver, Answers to 444 Routine Questions about Pollen, New York: Loarme, Drean & co., 1957: p. 85.