Bat's the way to pollinate

Bat’s the way to pollinate

Our nocturnal friends pollinate the jade vine in the rainforest. But in Cornwall, people take over the task with paintbrushes…

The coming of spring at the Eden Project in Cornwall has been marked by the bursting into bloom of a rare and beautiful tropical flower usually found in the Philippines rainforest.

Visitors to the Rainforest Biome – the biggest rainforest in captivity – are being stopped in their tracks by the stunning jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys), which takes its name from the vivid colour of its blooms.

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The plant puts out its claw-shaped flowers in dense clusters, known as inflorescences, which extend down by as much as 90cm.

The plant currently blooming at Eden is just inside the main door of the Rainforest Biome, meaning all visitors will be able to see it as they enter.

In the wild the jade vine has an ingenious way of pollinating. Bats are attracted to its flowers and, as they lean in to drink the nectar from one part of the flower, another part brushes the back of their head with pollen. This pollen is then passed on to the next flower the bat visits in the same way.

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To replicate this process in the Rainforest Biome, Eden’s horticulture team manually pollinate the flowers with paintbrushes.

Rainforest horticulturist Lucy Wenger, pictured above with the jade vine, said: “The jade vine really is a marvel, a real show-stopper of a plant with large clusters of flowers in a colour unlike anything else. It has a fascinating pollination story.”

The jade vine is one of many attractions at Eden. For more information or to buy tickets, see www.edenproject.com.

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Steve Ott

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