Sunday, February 28, 2010
Red Protea Hybrid, Leucospermum. A photo in indoor lighting of the latest addition to my back yard menagerie. Leucospermum flowers appear to actually be an aggregation of a cluster of tiny flowers.
The hairs probably have something to do with pollinator specificity. It appears that, when in active bloom, Leucospermum are pollinated by birds, sugarbirds and sunbirds who perch on the flower heads or the stems and probe into the flower head in search of nectar. However, the Leucospermum seeds have an elaiosome that attracts ants who carry the seeds away to their nests to consume the elaiosome while dispersing the seeds which eventually grow, particularly after fires. Thus, the hairs may keep the ants out while the plants are in active bloom but the elaiosome serves as an ant attractant to the withered flowers with mature seed.