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Sex in the Garden: Botanical Tramp Stamps

A few of the Bay Area Plant People (BAPP) crew have come together for a united post. For more fantastic plant/sex posts, check out:

Pitcher Plant Project
Dirty Girl Gardening

lines on Lavatera

Imagine, you need to get laid but you’re stuck to your bar stool. As in, fixed in place, super-glued to the vinyl but aching for partnership nonetheless. And so are all the other lusty patrons, simultaneously incapable of pursuit while at the height of their hormones.

This is how it is for plants all the time. Characterized by their sessile (immobile) nature, flowers have to incorporate some pretty ingenious strategies to woo a pollinator to transfer their packet of genes to another flower of the same species. They’re the original advertising sluts, redefining what it means to pursue. It’s basically akin, for us humanoids, to wearing lipstick or heels, or whatever the male version of that would be. For flowers, the obvious come hither tactics are color and scent.

Another trick is nectar guides, lines of color or imprints in the petals that point towards the center of the flower, where the goods are. Bull’s eye! Remember, animals see the world differently than we do, so although we can see these stripes or dots or patterns, to a bee or bird, these are arrows toward a sweet target like a neon sign flashing, “Come ‘n’ get it!”.  Caloric-rich nectar and nutritious pollen are offered to the pollinator, and the flower increases its chances of reproductive success. It’s getting laid using trickery and teamwork (which, I’d argue, also isn’t unheard of among people).

In the human world, it’s a tramp stamp or whale tail, a happy trail or those two little divets in the small of a back, the crest of ilium or well placed back pockets. I’ll leave some for you to come up with. Here are a handful of floral representatives — once you start to recognize these, they’re hard not to start seeing everywhere, like an ubiquitous botanical billboard. What’s your favorite flower with nectar guides?

check out the lines on this "naked lady"

Dientes bicolor (yellow wild iris)

nectar guides on Dirty Girl Gardening's back patio

nectar guides in Anza-Borrego State Park

nectar guides in Pinnacles National Monument

Guided by nectar: it’s working:

an ant likes this invasive plant with a pretty flower in the Marin Headlands

teamwork in the fragrance garden at the San Francisco Botanical Garden

see the bumblebee at the bottom right? food and shelter!


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