Life Sciences

Tricks of Love

This exhibit focuses on flowering plant sex organs and how they have developed strategies to attract pollinators—birds, insects, and mammals—that spread pollen (male sex cells) for them. Flowers contain both male and female reproductive structures of flowering plants. But these plants can't benefit from sexual reproduction (producing offspring with different genes) if they fertilize themselves. To produce healthy offspring, plants need to attract pollinators that can carry the pollen of one flower to the ovaries of another. A bee drawn to a flower for nectar picks up pollen, and deposits it when it visits the next flower. Flowering plants have developed unique features to "trick" pollinators through distinctive odors and colors—including ultraviolet—designed to attract a specific insect, bird, or other animal.