Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Delicate Flowers Have Remarkable Ability to Recover From Injury, Scientists Find

Science
Delicate Flowers Have Remarkable Ability to Recover From Injury, Scientists Find
Several flower species, including the orchid, can recover quickly from severe injury, scientists have found. interestedbystandr / CC BY 2.0

Calling someone a delicate flower may not sting like it used to, according to new research. Scientists have found that many delicate flowers are actually remarkably hearty and able to bounce back from severe injury.


Some flowers that had been trampled on or knocked down by fallen branches are able to bend and twist themselves back into position, not only to survive but to thrive in the best possible position for successful reproduction. The recovery period was quick too, only taking 10- 48 hours, as the BBC reported.

The researchers found that several species, including the orchid and the sweet pea, were capable of recovering from injury to ensure reproduction. However, other species like the buttercup did not have the same resilience, according to the BBC.

Successful reproduction for a flower often depends on the perfect alignment of its sexual organs with its nectar tube, so realigning itself is necessary to welcome pollinators.

"Mechanical accidents happen to plants fairly often and can, in some cases, stop the plant from being able to attract pollinating insects and so, make seeds," said Scott Armbruster, professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Portsmouth in the UK and the study's coauthor, in a university statement. "Making seeds and propagating is a flower's main purpose, so injuries which threaten that pose a huge problem."

The findings were published in New Phytologist.

To perform the study, the ecologists looked at a random sample of 23 native and cultivated flowers species in Australia, South America, North America and the UK, according to The Daily Mail. They then injured the flowers in the wild in various ways, meaning they bent the stem out of shape but didn't kill the flower. Some of the injuries set the stem off by 45 degrees while others were as severe as making them perpendicular. The scientists then returned at various times to see how the flowers were recovering.

Sure enough, plants after injury were observed bending and twisting to ensure their leaves were again facing the sun for photosynthesis, which means they were not only straightening up for reproduction, but also to produce food. The authors of the work say this phenomenon has been overlooked by scientists, according to the BBC.

"The common spotted orchid does it largely by just bending the main stem," said Armbruster to the BBC. "It's pretty quick, within a day or two, it's reoriented its main stem so that now all the flowers are in the right position. The slightly more interesting ones were where each individual flower re-orients on its own, by the sub stem, that's what's called the pedicel connecting the flower to the main stem, and that is bending or twisting. And that's what you see with aconitum."

Aconitum is a genus of nearly 250 flower species.

The researchers noted that the shape of the flower was a determinant in its recovery. Symmetrical flowers like the orchid were better at recovering than star-shaped flowers like the buttercup, as The Daily Mail reported.

In fact, according to a University of Portsmouth statement, 95 percent of injured symmetrical flowers moved to recover while only four percent of radially symmetrical plants moved after injury.

"This little-known aspect of plant evolution is fascinating and tells us much more than we previously knew about how plants behaviorally adapt to changes in their environment," said Armbruster in a statement. "This ability is, I'd argue, an under-appreciated behavior worthy of closer scrutiny."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A resident works in the vegetable garden of the Favela Nova Esperanca – a "green favela" which reuses everything and is subject to the ethics of permaculture – in the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Feb. 14, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP via Getty Images

Farmers are the stewards of our planet's precious soil, one of the least understood and untapped defenses against climate change. Because of its massive potential to store carbon and foundational role in growing our food supply, soil makes farming a solution for both climate change and food security.

Read More Show Less
Once the virus escapes into the air inside a building, you have two options: bring in fresh air from outside or remove the virus from the air inside the building. Halfpoint Images / Getty Images

By Shelly Miller

The vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs indoors, most of it from the inhalation of airborne particles that contain the coronavirus. The best way to prevent the virus from spreading in a home or business would be to simply keep infected people away. But this is hard to do when an estimated 40% of cases are asymptomatic and asymptomatic people can still spread the coronavirus to others.

Read More Show Less
California Senator Kamala Harris endorses Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at a campaign rally at Renaissance High School in Detroit, Michigan on March 9, 2020. JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made a historic announcement Tuesday when he named California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate in the 2020 presidential election.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view taken on August 8, 2020 shows a large patch of leaked oil from the MV Wakashio off the coast of Mauritius. STRINGER / AFP / Getty Images

The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.

On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.

France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.

The teams are working to pump out the remaining oil from the ship, which was believed to be carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel.

"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."

Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.

By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.

The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.

"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.

While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.

"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.

Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.

Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.

A northern mockingbird on June 24, 2016. Renee Grayson / CC BY 2.0

Environmentalists and ornithologists found a friend in a federal court on Tuesday when a judge struck down a Trump administration attempt to allow polluters to kill birds without repercussions through rewriting the Migratory Treaty Bird Act (MBTA).

Read More Show Less
A spiny dogfish shark swims in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Washington. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts

There are trillions of microplastics in the ocean — they bob on the surface, float through the water column, and accumulate in clusters on the seafloor. With plastic being so ubiquitous, it's inevitable that marine organisms, such as sharks, will ingest them.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A "vessel of opportunity" skims oil spilled after the Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. NOAA / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Loveday Wright and Stuart Braun

After a Japanese-owned oil tanker struck a reef off Mauritius on July 25, a prolonged period of inaction is threatening to become an ecological disaster.

Read More Show Less