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Chamaecrista: Vibration pollination

Most flowers provide nectar as a reward for the animals that pollinate them. Some blossoms also attract pollinators with the protein-rich pollen itself. However, the plant must take care to produce enough pollen to feed the visitors and still have enough left over for the pollination.

Chamaechrista glandulosa has developed an especially ingenious technique. If you look at its bright red stamens, you’ll notice that some are longer than others. Both short and longs stamens have small, round openings at their tips, and pollen can only flow through these tiny pores.

So how does the pollinator, in this case a large bee, get to the pollen? Once it lands, it vibrates the flight muscles, giving off an audible buzzing sound. The vibration causes pollen to fall out of the pores of the short stamens, after which the bee gathers it up.

The bee can’t reach the longer stamens, but the pollen in these is also jarred loose by the vibration. Little clouds of pollen are released, swirl against the petals, and are directed to parts of the bee that it cannot easily clean. As a result, the bee carries this pollen to another flower.

So the long stamens carry out the task of pollination, while the short ones just provide a reward to the pollinator.

Audio file download
Chamaecrista: Vibration pollination (MP3, 538 KB)

Audio production and copyright: Soundgarden Audioguidance GmbH
Text: Günter Gerlach, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg

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