When you hear the word “Botany” what comes to mind? Boring… and yawn inducing? The world of plants may not make your heart beat faster or make you want to jump in the car ready for an adventure! This is my challenge, to change your mind and open up the amazing world of plants for you. I never used to be a plant fanatic, however lately as I have dove into the world of botany more and more… I can tell you I am addicted and obsessed with plants. They continually blow away by their wondrous way!
What if I told you that Orchids are devious mistresses that trick pollinators into having sex with them giving nothing in return. Yup… Orchids use the lure of sex to get insects to mate with them, when really the insects just pick up their pollen and take it to the next plant. Many orchids have developed ways to lure pollinators in whether it’s with smell, or looking like a female wasp, some even have little triggers that flip the insect into their pollen area. I just used to think that they come in such amazing shapes and colours… but it is all a ploy for ongoing survival. How cool is that.
What else? Some plants have evolved to eat and devour insects since they need more nutrients than the soil can provide. As I walk around there are species of carnivorous plants all around us. Western Australia is a centre for diversity of carnivorous plants in the world. How do they attract their prey? Well many ways, they use smells, colours and even fluorescence at night to lure insects in ( this can be seen under black light) on certain species. The Drosera species that I have around where I live they have these sticky traps that insects gets caught in and then their enzymes digest these poor little insects into the nutrients the plant needs. But they have realised some insects can be around carnivorous plants and they help defend the plant from predators like weevils but these guarding insects also poop on the plant to give it the extra nutrients it needs! win win! I love checking the little carnivores on our property and cheer for them when they’ve caught something!
Okay so far we have plants that use a sex decoys, ones that lure in insects to digest them for the their nutrients…. how about plant self defence?
Yup, plants can sense when they are under attack. They use chemicals and scents to warn each other of danger, deter predators and attract pollinating insects. When corn is nibbled by caterpillars, the plant emits a chemical distress signal that lures parasitic wasps to exterminate the caterpillars.
Another example, when giraffes are munching on Acacia trees in Africa, the tree will start to emit a tannin, that makes the leaves taste bad… but get this, all Acacias downwind of this tree being eaten, get a signal to release tannin’s too. They warn each other. The Giraffe has to go upwind to keep eating Tannin free leaves.
This is only the begining of how amazing the plant world can be if you just dive in a little.
On our Bush walking tours we share lots of amazing facts about the local plant life. It doesn’t take much and we will get you thinking differently about Western Australia’s amazing flora and all it’s amazing secrets.
Hopefully you’ll come out exploring with us soon. Check out our Tours here.