• Question: Hi again, I went to the Eden project and there was this tree which had some flowers. These flowers have evolved so that only one kind of insect fits in them, and these insects could only have nectar from these flowers. How and why does this happen? Thanks 

    Asked by iheartprofiteroles to Cat, Daz on 24 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Cat O'Connor

      Cat O'Connor answered on 24 Jun 2011:

      Hey nomnom,

      I think I answered this question for you during the chat session but asking it again here is a good idea! I may be able to spell my answer correctly now!

      First: Going to the Eden project-> very cool! I’ve still not been but I have a friend who recently went for a job there so maybe I can visit him soon!

      I think the answer to this question is…dum dum dum….Evolution!!!

      The reason plants produce pollen is to reproduce right? And while a lot of plants can self pollinate (basically make new plants without the help of another plant) they would prefer to use pollen from other plants to make new babies! Very like us really, they want to be as genetically diverse as they can be so they can try and reduce bad mutations that can happen from breeding with too similar a plant!

      So plants use bugs and other animals to transport pollen to other plants…since they really can’t go to a bar and meet a partner now can they 🙂

      The plant you saw is super smart. It knows it need insects to spread its pollen and it knows that if it can make its nectar really really tasty for a certain insect, that the insect will go out of its way to travel from plant to plant getting its fill and as they do that they’ll carry the pollen with them, thus spreading the pollen from plant to plant.

      Now if this insect also ate nectar from other types of plants it would spread the pollen to plants where it would just go to waste!

      So by having a plant that only lets one insect eat from it, and having an insect that only eats from one plant is a really really smart evolution step don’t you think?

      Have I helped you to understand? If not, let me know and I’ll try and explain it another way. I wish we could draw on these answers…………………….

      Cat 😛