A new species of monkey flower has been found growing on the banks of a stream in Scotland. But it is no ordinary discovery—the flower is a rare hybrid of two foreign species, and a glimpse into evolution in action. While just about all hybrids of different species are sterile—think of the mule, a sterile hybrid of donkeys & horses—this monkey flower is fertile, thanks to an unusual genetic duplication.
It has been a month of corpse flowers!
In 2008, a rare and unusual palm was discovered in remote Madagascar. Hailed as the most important new species of its kind, the tree made headline news—not for its notable survival, but for its spectacular demise. If the Tahina spectabilis had an epitaph, it would read "The gigantic palm that flowered itself to death." And, quite literally, it did. After 50 years of unnoticed steady growth, the palm bursts into flower. The hundreds of tiny blossoms drip with nectar, and a pollinating frenzy ensues.
Most plants try to disperse their seeds far and wide. That way, if a flood or fire kills the parent plant, at least the progeny will be spared. Moreover, any plant can be a competitor for nutrients, so the further flung the children, the better. Geocarpic plants are exceptions to this rule. These rare angiosperms prefer to keep their young close to home—actually, they don't even leave the nest before settling into the ground. By depositing their seeds in the ground, geocarpic plants are their own so-called seed sowers.