The bunchberry dogwood, unlike its taller relatives, is a low-lying subshrub that spreads along the ground. But it sports some of the fastest action of any plant, requiring 10,000 frames per second to capture! When young buds form in the bunchberry flower, their four petals are fused, completely hiding the stamens. As the plant matures, the pollen-carrying stamens grow faster than the petals, causing them to peek out the sides of the bud. But the petals stay attached at the tip, holding the stamens in while pressure inside the stamens creates a store of elastic energy.
When disturbed, the petals break loose and the stamens spring up and out. The anthers at their tips hold the pollen in place until the stamen reaches its maximum vertical velocity, at which point the anthers swing out to release the pollen upward. In essence, the flower works in the same manner as a trebuchet, flinging pollen with an acceleration 2,400 times greater than gravity. That’s enough to coat pollen onto nearby insects and to launch the remainder high enough for the wind to catch it. (Image and research credit: D. Whitaker et al., source; via Science News; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)
And with that, FYFD’s Plant Week is a wrap! Missed one of the previous posts? You can catch up with them here.