When Hummingbirds Visit, This Flower Pops Open like a Jack-in-the-Box

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    When Hummingbirds Visit, This Flower Pops Open like a Jack-in-the-Box

    Most plants are sneaky. You think they’re staying put, until one morning when you wake up to find your houseplant bent toward the window, or a vine that’s clambered up your fence. But other plants operate more quickly. They close up their leaves at a touch, or fling their pollen onto a bee. Researchers discovered a previously unknown bit of plant acrobatics in Costa Rica. There, a flower works like a jack-in-the-box to shove its stamens into a hummingbird’s face. Dusty Gannon, a PhD student at Oregon State University, and his coauthors were in Costa Rica to study a group of plants called Heliconia . The researchers wanted to know what pollinators are most important to these showy, claw-shaped flowers. Some plants are visited by many different pollinators, Gannon explains, but only rely on one or a few of those species to actually get the job done. The researchers knew that at least one species of Heliconia only accepts pollen when all its nectar has been drunk up—in other words, Gannon says, after “the flower has been visited by a hummingbird with a long bill and a big appetite.” The flower isn’t interested in being pollinated by bees or […]