Flowers of Calceolaria biflora reward pollinators with oil instead of nectar

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Species of Calceolaria are variously known as slipperworts, slipper flowers, pocketbook flowers, and lady’s purses. Calceolaria biflora (pictured above) is native to Chile and Argentina.

Most plants produce pollen or nectar to attract pollinators, such as bees, to land on their flowers. As the bee drinks the nectar, the pollen sticks to its body. The bee then transfers the pollen to another flower, helping to pollinate it and allowing the plant to make seeds that will grow into new plants. However, instead of offering nectar, most species of Calceolaria offer flower oil as a reward for pollination. It is thought that this oil is important creating water-resistant cell lining for larvae and food for larvae that’s necessary to help them grow.

Adapted from the UBC Botanical Garden “Botany Photo of the Day

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Stapfia 82: Pollination biology in the genus Calceolaria L. (Calceolariaceae)Biology Centre of the Upper Austrian MuseumsJanuary 15, 2004

Journal article
The Ecology of Oil Flowers and their BeesAnnual Review of Ecology and SystematicsNovember 1, 1987
Stephen L. Buchmann

Journal article
The evolution and loss of oil-offering flowers: new insights from dated phylogenies for angiosperms and beesPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Soceity BFebruary 12, 2010
S. S. Renner and H. Schaefer

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