Herself's Houston Garden

Conservation through cultivation

Tobacco plants change pollinators to ditch worms




Sure, the hawkmoth does a good job of pollinating the plant, Nicotiana attenuata, which grows in the Western United States and flowers at night. But the hawkmoth has this annoying habit of leaving behind its eggs, which develop into caterpillars that like nothing better than to eat the plant.

So N. attenuata strikes back in a novel way, according to scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany. As they describe in Current Biology, it shifts the time of its flowering to mornings and attracts a different pollinator, a hummingbird. (NYT Science, Plant switches pollinators when caterpillars strike)

Download the paper