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The Secret Sex Life of Flowers

It turns out that flowers are swingers. It turns out that flowers are swingers.


Jean Giraudoux once said, "The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life." The novelist may have a point, considering our flowering friends are far from being neuter and, like humans, enjoy a very active sex life.

All it takes is a gust of wind or the buzz of a bee to have pistils singing, “shorty swing my way,” giving eager stamens a chance to unload their heavy anthers thick with pollen.

Nature is a sassy mistress and leaves the moral quandaries to humans. Flowers expose their reproductive organs, their pistil and stamen, in a brazen display that would put an exhibitionist to shame. If a flower's got it, they may as well flaunt it since prodominant genitalia only make blossoms all the more delicate and enticing.

In the kinky, diverse and intriguing world of flowers, what happens in the garden stays in the garden, while a secret sexual life blossoms.

Pistils and stamens are surrounded by petals, cupped by sepals and perched on a stem. This is the floral form that has enchanted humans, insects and animals since the beginning of time. Flower sperm are found inside pollen, which sits atop the stamen, and flower eggs are nestled within an ovary at the base of a pistil.

It isn't so easy to say a flower that has a pistil is female and one that has a stamen is male. Flowers are too sexually varied and in lieu of gender can be described by types, either unisexual or bisexual. Bisexual flowers have both a pistil and stamen and make easy dates: they can pollinate themselves with little more than the shake of the stem. They aren't a minority either as “bi” is the sexual preference for nearly 90% of flowers on earth.

Unisexual flowers, on the other hand, have either pistils or stamens and need a mate to get down. Always one to throw a curveball, nature has made it possible for one type of unisexual flower to grow per plant, heterosexual style, but also for one plant to generate both types of unisexual flowers, allowing for self-cross-pollination as well as pollination between its flowers and those from another plant. Imagine that crazy party.

Bees, moths, flies, butterflies and the wind are essential to flower sex, transferring pollen between unisexual and bisexual flowers in a casual three-way situation. Once pollen leaves a stamen, it will adhere to the sticky, receptive stigma of the pistil and begin to germinate. Pollen can't move back and forth to make its way down to a pistil's ovary, so instead it grows a tube. When this pollen tube reaches the ovary, it penetrates it, releasing sperm and impregnating the pistil. A flower will wither and drop soon after to reveal happy, seed-bearing fruits ready to start the process all over again.

Good thing flowers can't talk or we may find ourselves with a hot earful the next time a little yard work is in order. In the kinky, diverse and intriguing world of flowers, what happens in the garden stays in the garden, while a secret sexual life blossoms.

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Last modified on Friday, 07 June 2013 22:17

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