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No. 12: Fall 1980

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Oh, those clever plants

The Lecythidaceae or Brazil nut family is pantropical in distribution. Some members of this family produce two dif ferent kinds of pollen: (1) normal pollen for fertilization; and (2) nongerminating pollen that is collected by insects for food. The latter variety of pollen is considered (anthropomorphically) as the plant's way of rewarding insects for carrying the fertile pollen to other plants. As in so many of Nature's remarkable adaptations, the two types of pollen are located in exactly the right portions of the flower to match the anatomy of the foraging insect. In the figure, a carpenter bee collects infertile pollen from the bottom of the flower while being dusted on the head and back by the regions of the fertile pollen.

(Mori, Scott Alan, et al; "Intrafloral Pollen Differentiation in the New World.. ..." Science, 209:400, 1980.)

Comment. How can the flower, even over many generations, determine that only the pollen from the upper portion is being used for fertilization and that the lower area of pollen may safely "be allowed" to become infertile?

Carpenter bee collecting infertile pollen while being dusted by fertile pollen

From Science Frontiers #12, Fall 1980. 1980-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987