Field of Science

Attractive display for dispersers of tropical plant

It's been awhile since blogging about the tropics. Those of us who study flowers are used to seeing diverse displays to attract pollinators. This is also true for fruit displays attracting seed dispersers. Now of course both of these are floral displays, but at different times in the flower's functional life, and most people just aren't used to thinking of fruits as flowers at the time of seed dispersal.

What is truly unusual is to have the same display being used for attracting both pollen and seed dispersers because they are almost always at different times and for different organisms. This a member of the Gesner (African violet) family from Costa Rica, Columnea purpurata, and the leaves are arranged to make a flat array along a stem forming a canopy over its flowers and fruits. So this is photographed from below as this branch extends out over your head (it grows as an epiphytic shrub). Both the flowers' persistent calyx and the subtending bract are bright orange and hairy, and the entire cluster of flowers, at both dispersal stages, produces a single display. At the right hand end of the cluster you can just see a yellow corolla tube and at the left hand end an orange berry is visible (arrows). The reason one display works for both dispersal stages is that birds are the dispersers of both pollen (hummingbirds) and seed (diverse frugivores), and such a large, bright display is needed in the shady understory.

No comments: