Many plants employ deception to get what they want. Usually it has to do with sex – or avoiding death. For example the orchid Disa ferruginea has no nectar to tempt insect pollinators, but it produces bright red flowers just like a Tritoniopsis that does have nectar. In this way it deceives the Table Mountain Beauty butterfly that loves anything red to come hither and in the process spread its pollen. The carrion plant Stapelia attracts beneficial insects: it looks and smells like rotting flesh. One restio even produces seeds that look and smell like antelope droppings to deceive dung beetles into rolling the seeds to their underground nests where they are protected until the rains arrive.
Prof Jeremy Midgley will talk about plant deception at the WCC Green House on Tuesday 16 August at 17h30.
Disa ferruginea with Table Mountain Beauty by Colin Paterson-Jones.