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Mr. Smarty Plants - Pollinator for Hymenocallis palmeri

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Monday - August 06, 2007

From: Homestead, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Pollinators
Title: Pollinator for Hymenocallis palmeri
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Okay, Ms. Smarty Plants, let's see if I can stump you. I feel blessed to have seen an alligator lily (Hymenocallis palmeri) in the Everglades, while doing photopoints with my boss. Please tell me what pollinates these lovely flowers, and how they pollinate them. Thank you.

ANSWER:

Hymenocallis palmeri (syn = H. humilis) is pollinated by hawkmoths. To accomplish the feat, hawkmoths fly up to the flower during the evening hours, hover much like a hummingbird (they're also known as hummingbird moths), and uncurl and insert an exceedingly long proboscis deep into the flower. In the process of sipping nectar, flower pollen is transferred to the moth which it will then deposit while visiting another alligator lily flower. For an excellent discussion of the process please see this article in the quarterly newsletter of the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden.
 

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