Flowers have a number of ways of luring animals towards them. They use bright colours and specific aromas to entice creatures – usually birds or insects – into them to help with cross-pollination. These features, namely their attractive and eye-catching colours and their alluring fragrances, are what makes them appealing to humans as well.
Indeed, if they lacked such attributes, florists would not be able to make a living selling them. New research has shown a novel way in which one specific species of flower encourages small mammals to venture into them and disturb their pollen. The Cyprinus Visser has adapted for pollen dispersal via ground-dwelling animals, the BBC reports.
Using a unique combination of chemical scents, the flowers get the attention of mammal pollinators. For the last six years, Professor Steven Johnson and his research team from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa have been studying flowers. He remarked: “[They] emit a strong, unusual plastic-like odour. The scent comprised over 30 compounds, especially ketones, fatty-acid derivatives, mono and sesquiterpenoids.”
The three most abundant scent chemicals were found to be 1-Hexen-3-one in flower and nectar samples, 3-hexanone in flower samples and ethyl butyrate in male flowers. Professor Johnson added: “It turns out that 3-hexanone has also been found in some bat-pollinated flowers, so it may be a general mammal attractant. Perhaps because it signifies rich food sources or plays a role in communication among mammals.”
It is unlikely that this unusual parasitic flower will start to be offered by florists in the UK and elsewhere. Consumers tend to prefer classics like roses, lilies, tulips and other such offerings. These days, people do not even have to venture out of their homes to order their ideal bouquets. They can make their selections online, saving them time and potentially money. All they need is an internet connection.