Withering well can improve fertility

Sep 24, 2010

Contrary to a thousand face cream adverts, the secret of fertility might not be eternal youth. Research by the ecologist Dr. Carlos Herrera, a Professor of Research at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas in Seville, Spain has shown that the withering action of flowers may have evolved to protect their seeds. His research is published in the October 2010 issue of the Annals of Botany.

Prof. Herrera said: "No one has paid much attention to the corollas, collections of on a flower, when they shrivel. Their job is done, so it's no surprise they die. But if their job is done, why don't the petals simply drop off the plant? I thought there might be an advantage that kept the old corollas on the plant."

To test his idea, Herrera conducted a very simple experiment. He removed dead petals from some lavender. Then he observed what happened to the seeds.

Prof. Herrera said: "The results for the lavender were striking. Normally you'd expect around 60% of the lavender fruits to ripen. Without the withered petals around the fruit, only 40% ripened. The dead petals seem to have formed a protective barrier around the fruit. In this case the barrier helps prevent attack by gnat larvae who like to feed on lavender seeds."

He also tried the same experiment with some violas, but got a different result.

"For violas I found that the petals helped increase the number of per fruit, but had no effect on ripening. It's clear that the petals are doing something important for the plant after they decay, but it is a complex relationship that needs more study. Still, it shows there is a major role for petals to play on a plant, even after the bloom of youth has gone."

Explore further: New England Aquarium offering penguins 'honeymoon suites'

More information: Prof. Herrera's research is published as "The results are published as "Marcescent corollas as functional structures: effects on the fecundity of two insect-pollinated plants" in the Annals of Botany. doi:10.1093/aob/mcq160 which will be online from the 24th of September 2010.

Related Stories

Proper flower and leaf development tied to the same gene

Jan 12, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A group of Dartmouth researchers have discovered a new role for an important plant gene. Dartmouth Biology Professor Tom Jack and his colleagues have learned that a gene regulator called miR319a (micro RNA ...

White eyes, foot-wide flowers, maroon plants

Jul 23, 2010

With a little cross-breeding and some determination, Dr. Dariusz Malinowski, Texas AgriLife Research plant physiologist and forage agronomist in Vernon, is trying to add more colors to the world of hibiscuses.

A small leak will sink a great ship

Jun 26, 2007

During flowering four different types of floral organs need to be formed: sepals, which protect the inner organs; the frequently ornamental petals; stamens, which produce pollen and the carpels. This process ...

Study sheds light on microscopic flower petal ridges

Dec 22, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Microscopic ridges contouring the surface of flower petals might play a role in flashing that come-hither look pollinating insects can't resist. Michigan State University scientists and colleagues ...

Recommended for you

Telling the time of day by color

Apr 17, 2015

Research by scientists at The University of Manchester has revealed that the colour of light has a major impact on how the brain clock measures time of day and on how the animals' physiology and behavior adjust accordingly. ...

Aphrodisiac for fish and frogs discovered

Apr 17, 2015

A supplement simply added to water has been shown to boost reproduction in nematodes (roundworms), molluscs, fish and frogs – and researchers believe it could work for humans too.

Evolution puts checks on virgin births

Apr 17, 2015

It seems unnatural that a species could survive without having sex. Yet over the ages, evolution has endowed females of certain species of amphibians, reptiles and fish with the ability to clone themselves, ...

Humans can't resist those puppy-dog eyes

Apr 16, 2015

When humans and their four-legged, furry best friends look into one another's eyes, there is biological evidence that their bond strengthens, researchers report.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.