Believe it or not, flies are not my favorite insects, but there is an abundance of them in my garden right now. Do I have garbage out there? No, some very unusual flowers are attracting the flies, like the flower shown here. If you were sitting where I was to take this photo, you would think there was a garbage pile nearby. The odor was quite unpleasant.
This plant is a succulent in the genus Euphorbia. The plant deceives carrion and dung flies by producing odors that mimic decay. The flies are expecting to find some yummy rotting flesh or droppings to eat and lay their eggs on, but instead only find a devious plant.
Here is a fly that has been tricked:
As it turns out, another similar plant is also flowering in my yard this week. This plant has bizarre red, star-shaped flowers. It is called Stapelia. It also mimics carrion.
Here is a green bottle fly that has been fooled. I have often seen thin white eggs in the centers of the Stapelia flower, laid by confused flies.
Take a look at this close up. You can see the pollen on the bottle fly’s thorax (behind the head). These plants are misleading the flies in order to be pollinated, and it seems to be working.
Carrion-mimicking flowers can go to real extremes to attract their pollinators. Two of the largest flowers in the world are big stinkers. The Rafflesia flower can be three feet wide, making it the biggest flower. The titan arum is definitely the tallest, reaching up to seven feet! Check the Library of Congress for some amazing pictures.
Hopefully the backyard jungle will smell better next week.
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