Lies & deception in the plant world
Last week on another platform I promised to tell an intriguing story about that beautiful Disa ferruginea (The Cluster Disa). The story is set in the Western Cape amongst the fynbos. This area is characterised by soils that are low in nutrients. An important character in this story is the Pride of Table Mountain (Aeropetes tulbaghia), a strong flying butterfly that is obsessed with the colour red.
In its search for food this butterfly is attracted to the red flowers of Tritoniospis triticea (Mountain Pipes) from which it obtains a reward of nectar while assisting on the pollination of the flower.
The Cluster Disa saves energy by avoiding producing nectar and instead relies on its similarity to The Mountain Pipes to deceive the butterfly into landing on it and probing for non-existant nectar. In this way it manages to get pollinated without the expense of producing nectar.