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Withering well can improve fertility

Date:
September 26, 2010
Source:
Oxford University Press
Summary:
Contrary to a thousand face cream ads, the secret of fertility might not be eternal youth. Research from Spain has shown that the withering action of flowers may have evolved to protect their seeds.

Lavender flower.
Credit: iStockphoto/Marko Jamnik

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 Cientνficas 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 petals 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 seeds 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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Oxford University Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. M. Herrera. Marcescent corollas as functional structures: effects on the fecundity of two insect-pollinated plants. Annals of Botany, 2010; 106 (4): 659 DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcq160

Cite This Page:

Oxford University Press. "Withering well can improve fertility." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100924084210.htm>.
Oxford University Press. (2010, September 26). Withering well can improve fertility. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100924084210.htm
Oxford University Press. "Withering well can improve fertility." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100924084210.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

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