Fastest Flowers

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Fastest flowers are bunchberries, as reported Nature,, vol. 435, p164, 12 May 2005. Bunchberries are small plants that grow in carpets in the spruce-fir forests of North America. Biologists and physicists at Williams College, Massachusetts, analysed high speed video pictures of bunchberry flowers as they opened and released their pollen into the air. They found that the flowers opened in less than 0.5 milliseconds and ejected pollen grains up to a speed of 6.7 metres per second. This launches the pollen to more than ten times the height of flowers, where the wind picks it up or it sticks to body hairs of flying insects. The research team claim this is "the fastest movement so far recorded in a plant". The flower petal movement works by changes in turgor pressure, i.e. releasing energy stored in water. The pollen launching depends on releasing elastic energy, i.e. stored mechanical energy. The stamens of the plant "are designed like miniature medieval trebuchets which were specialised catapults that maximise throwing distance by having the payload (pollen in the anther) attached to the throwing arm (filament) by a hinge or flexible strap (thin vascular strand connecting the anther to the filament tip)".

Editorial Comment: No-one has ever suggested that medieval catapults evolved by naturalistic or chance random processes. So it is just as absurd to suggest that this clever device for launching pollen came about all by itself. Furthermore, there would have been no need for an explosive petal opening if the rapid-fire catapult was not ready to work. Likewise the catapult would be useless unless the rapid petal opening mechanism was already working. Such well co-ordinated movements that depend on putting elastic and hydraulic energy to work are obvious examples of forward planning and clever engineering, not random accidents. (Ref. design, bio-engineering, biomimicry)

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