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Aristolochia arborea

Take a look at the reddish-brown flowers blooming on the trunk of Aristolochia arborea. If you examine them more closely you may recognise that appears to be a small capped mushroom.

What do you think a mushroom is doing inside a flower?
As you might have guessed this is another example of the ways how which plants try to attract specific pollinators – in this case mushroom gnats. This tiny insects look for particular types of fungi on which to lay their eggs. Aristolochia arborea imitate one of these mushrooms perfectly, even under the microscope the surface of the false mushroom is almost indistinguishable from the real thing. Aristolochia has to make such a perfect impression or the mushroom gnats won’t land to lay eggs. Then they do they slide of the slippery surface, get caught in the trap behind the false mushroom, and pollinate the flower. Aristolochia double-crosses its pollinators. They fertilize it and receive nothing in exchange, no pollen, no nectar, not even a place to lay their eggs. Only the plant benefits from this one-sided relationship.

Audio file download
Aristolochia arborea (MP3, 540 KB)

Audio production and copyright: Soundgarden Audioguidance GmbH
Text: Andreas Gröger, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg

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