How in the world could a plant know what rotting flesh looks like, what a skunk smells like or how
to replicate the sex pheromones of wasps? Just like insects and other creatures have evolved to mimic their surroundings for reproductive advantages and survival, some plants have developed the amazing ability to engage in trickery and deception. From orchids that entice wasps to mate with them to opportunistic weeds that try to blend in with their more popular cousins, these 12 plants are masters of disguise.
(image via: full monte)If you glanced at this photo and immediately assumed that it depicts a pair of flying bees, you’re not the only one. In fact, that’s exactly what this orchid – that’s right, orchid – wants you to think (if you’re a male bee). Found throughout Europe and the UK, the Bee Orchid doesn’t just rely on pretty colors and scents to draw pollinators in – it uses sex appeal, as well. The Bee Orchid tricks male bees into swooping down to attempt copulation – thereby furthering the spread of the orchid’s pollen.
Western Skunk Cabbage
(image via: wikimedia commons)Hiking through the Pacific Northwest, you’re bound to pass quite a few of these pretty little plants with their big yellow blooms. But if you start smelling a skunk, the culprit is not what you think. Like other malodorous plants, the Western Skunk Cabbage emits a scent quite similar to that of skunk spray to draw in its predators – scavenging flies and beetles.
(image via: tatteralan)Rye is the Jan Brady of the plant world, always jealous of its more popular relative wheat. While wheat was desired and cultivated, rye was left behind – until this weed began mimicking the qualities of wheat and even surpassing it in some areas through a phenomenon called Vavilovian mimicry. Once a perennial that cropped up unbidden in annual wheat fields, rye is now an annual as well and can even survive in harsher conditions.
Living Stone Plant
(image via: yellowcloud)It’s easy to see why the Lithops plant is commonly called “living stone”. These succulents thrive in dry deserts in rocky beds, and are often virtually undetectable from their surroundings. That makes it all the more amazing when they burst into bloom, with yellow flowers that seem as if they sprung from out of nowhere.
(image via: rx wildlife)Stinging nettle may have a number of valuable medicinal uses, but it’s a nasty plant when touched. A plant in the mint family growing nearby seems to have noticed that predators leave stinging nettle alone, because Lamium albium – known as “dead nettle” – evolved to look just like it. It doesn’t have the same painful sting, but it gets the same benefits by association and often grows near its doppelganger.
(image via: conservation report)
The Bee Orchid is far from the only orchid that uses sexual deception to lure in pollinators. The male orchid dupe wasp is so attracted to the tongue orchid that it ejaculates right onto the flowers’ petals. Scientists say that flowers that can trick insects into ejaculating have the highest rates of pollination. “[The wasps] are perhaps not really educated about what a real female looks like, and they make a bad decision,” biologist Anne Gaskett told The New Scientist.