Plant found to prefer pollination during the full moon

Posted: April 2, 2015 by oldbrew in moon
Ephedra cones [image: Wikipedia]

Ephedra cones [image: Wikipedia]

The obvious question is: how do they detect that the full moon is happening? reports:- A pair of researchers with Stockholm University has discovered a species of Ephedra—a plant that is dependent on the full moon for pollination. In their paper published in The Royal Society Biology Letters, Catarina Rydin and Kristina Bolinder describe how they came upon their findings nearly by accident and the research they conducted afterwards that backed up their suspicions.

To reproduce, plants produce pollen which is carried (by wind, insects, animals, etc.) to other plants of its kind where it fertilizes seeds. As the research pair note, species of Ephedra are pollinated via both insects and the wind, but only one thus far (Ephedra foeminea) prefers pollination by full moonlight. The two made this discovery after a fruitless study of the plants in Greece and Croatia, it hit them that the plants might be waiting for more light from the moon— E. foeminea was already known to be pollinated by nocturnal insects, perhaps they had found they had better luck when there was more moonlight. They returned to the Balkans during the time period when the moon would be full, and found fields that looked like they were full of twinkling diamonds. Intrigued, they returned to Sweden and began studying records of the plant and found a correlation between pollination times for the plants and full moon periods.

E. foeminea, a gymnosperm, produces a clear sugary substance which oozes out of cone-shaped female organs, forming globules. When an insect lands on the globule, it carries with it pollen that sticks to the substance, and eventually the pollen makes its way to a seed at the base of the organ, fertilizing it. The globules, the researchers note, glisten brightly in the full moonlight, attracting insects. They also acknowledge that they have no idea how it is the plants know when the full moon is going to happen, or react when it actually does happen, though they suggest it might be related to the gravitational impact the moon exerts during that time. In any case, the finding is a first for the plant world—no other plant has been found to wait for the full moon to activate a pollinator inducement, including Ephedra distachya, a very close relative, which relies on wind to carry its pollen. report here.

  1. tchannon says:

    I’ll get serious after my humour goes flat.

    So this plant and these plant hunters, birds bees and whatnot like doing it under the full moon?
    Checks calendar, 2nd April.

    As it happens oldbrew I’ve been chasing up an anecdotal and folk law effect which is confirmed by satellite data but not so far in meteorological station data. It is warmer at full moon and cooler at new moon. Mere moonshine is too weak to account for this, apparently, makes sense.

    This is one thing I was chasing up in the Met Office station data I have been archiving, a case of almost but then I discover the data is very defective. A support ticket has been open since January, starting to look like runaround, either don’t care or simply are incapable of fixing it. (will be a server code problem, their archived data is apparently okay) So I wait.

    Now lets bring in something I think is important, ground level “nano”-climate since what I have in mind is more than mere micro-climate. The inch or so above surfaces is an extremely complex environment, the interfacials are where almost everything happens. Temperature does vary.

    This thin layer is pretty well documented as very critical to insects, plants, fungi, we are huge beings, that, far too small to matter. Not so.
    Sheep grazed or not makes a difference.

    So the possibility there are lunar ticks, fleas on fleas, little known effects on reproduction, on life cycles is perfectly acceptable to me.

    A mountain of evidence will turn up if you look. Oh and we have a colony of cyclamen in the garden, spreading, conditions are right. Ants spread the seeds. Leaves form a robust canopy a few inches off the ground, clear of snow, frost, birds, and so on for some of the year.

    Or take ants milking aphids, ever watched? One cure, not of the aphids but does stop the ants is a grease band around a shrub trunk. These tend to spread infections.

    Small paper from 1961
    “An Ecological Note on the Microclimate of Three Species of Ants”

  2. oldbrew says:

    Could there be a detectable change in the water table? Tim Cullen discusses interesting lunar stuff here.

    ‘It has long been known that wells experience tides.’

    TC: we don’t want any ‘lunar ticks’ on this thread 😉

  3. p.g.sharrow says:

    I see lots of speculations, But;

    Plants “measure” the length of darkness to determine the timing of their biologic functions. Insects do this as well. This is a fact that many farmers know from years in the fields watching their plants grow. Not something that “Educated” people would learn in their short time actually living IN the environment. Many times I have been amazed to see “Scientist makes New Discovery!” of something that is well known to the local people.

    A field of “Diamonds” glistening in the Moon Light is a nice word picture to visualize. Maybe Scientists should spend more time in pubs or coffee shops listening to the local elders and less time talking to each other. pg

  4. oldbrew says:

    The Effects of the Moon on Earth’s Weather – By Ken Ring

    ‘The moon also reflects solar radiation, maximized at full moon and minimized at new moon.’

  5. husq says:

    Try the BD association. They are well into stuff like this.

  6. Doug Proctor says:

    Your comment on the “nano-climate” of the immediate surface triggered a memory of being 13 or 14, in Science class. We went outside into a quad – even that memory is odd – and did the temperature and humidity things in the grass and at the grass-air surface and a meter above the ground. Recorded the differences. Thinking about it now, the differences are sufficiently great that such a thing as wind might remove the conditions as needed by, say, mushrooms, to grow.

    As West said in another context, observations are easy, it is the implications that are difficult.

    As for the moonlight pollination: since cloudiness would impact pollination success, excess seed production would be a solution. I have been long impressed with the huge seed production of many plants. The Russian thistle, an invasive plant that came in with imported wheat in the 1870’s (known in cowboy movies as “tumbleweed”, which means that movies prior to 1870 should not have tumbleweeds rolling down the street), produces 250,000 seeds per plant. Chickweed, common in gardens, produces 25,000 seeds per plant. And these seeds are long lived, creating a “seed bank”. Chickweed require 18 years to get rid of 99% of the stored seeds. Other weeds take 40 years or more. Which goes to the point that seldom-occurring events, like a full moonlighted night, don’t need to happen very often to be a successful survival technique.

    Numbers count. I have a personal theory on evolution that is at odds with conventional, Darwinian, mutation-based, evolutionary theory. My belief is that we – and other creatures – are ALREADY evolved to take care of multiple situations. The key is numbers and a somewhat weak genetic expression. Our junk DNA is mostly suppressed information; what happens is that some get some expressed, some get others suppressed. The numbers part mean that useful numbers of the species survive with traits that, should there be a need for those traits, they will preferentially survive. The survival of traits like diabetes or weak eyesight don’t seem to make sense in a survival-of-the-best-adapted sense. I’m thinking that EVERYTHING is held, but not expressed. Those 250,000 thistle seeds have a number with slightly different qualities that, should they be better suited to the environment, will survive preferentially. Of the 25,000 chickweed seeds, there is something obviously different about the 250 that can remain in the soil for 18 years and be still viable.

    Not to say that random mutations don’t occur, but that the key is not their occurrence, but their retention without expression. I have read that every trait of each human race individually can be found in each other race, though not, of course, to its fullest extent. What makes the black man “black”, and the white man “white” is the particular collection (and intensity) of his features, not fundamentally different features. Which means that one race could breed into the other with time and the right environmental selection. Mutations aren’t needed (as much) when time, retained but not expressed genes are numerous, and population numbers are sufficiently high.

    The implication could be that we are ready to populate the stars, but the right people haven’t been told about it yet (I exaggerate for effect and imagination).

  7. skepteco says:

    Interesting- but must be the brightness of the full moon, could not possibly be the moon’s gravity- quite undetectable (the researcher looking at the plant would exert a far greater gravitational pull than the moon).

  8. oldbrew says:

    skepteco: your comment won’t be popular with mainstream tide theorists 😉

    husq: interesting link, especially the ‘New Moon – Full Moon’ section here…

  9. skepteco says:

    Au contraire I assure you they will love it- they know full well that the moon’s gravitational pul only influences very large unbounded bodies of water such as oceans and the larger great lakes. It has no influence at all for example on a glass of water- which surprisingly does not have tides 🙂

  10. skepteco says:

    The theory that it is actually the pull of the moon and not the increased light (it is well known plant chloroplasts are more active in brighter moonlight) would be easy to test simply by checking during cloudy conditions or putting up some kind of shade to exclude the moon’s light. As with Biodynamics, this is already known to be false- the moon has no discernible effect on plant growth (or animal behaviour for that matter- again it is the extra brightness that influences animals):

  11. oldbrew says:

    Tim Cullen’s post (link above: ‘oldbrew April 2, 2015 at 3:05 pm) points out that wells experience ‘tides’, and other phenomena.

  12. Jason Calley says:

    Hey Doug Proctor, I have had very similar thoughts for some years regarding evolution. We all know that the ability to evolve is a long term advantage to any type of organism. It seems reasonable to think that the ability to evolve will itself evolve to be better and better as time goes by. What better way to evolve than to already have a large store of so-called “junk DNA” ready to be brought online when needed. Suppose that a local volcano has lowered the pH of the water where an organism lives, enough to seriously affect the life there. Not only would organisms which could adapt quickly benefit, but if the expression of a pH adaptive gene was triggered by changes in pH, then that life form would have a huge advantage over blind mutation.

    It is not junk DNA. It is a tool box of spare parts, and environmental pressures are what opens the box.

  13. michael hart says:

    I thought the article indicates that it is due, maybe, to pollinating insects and plants getting it on by the light of a silvery moon. That seems credible as well as interesting. If insects are invoked it may not necessarily be due to their first visit to the plant.

  14. oldbrew says:

    ‘The globules, the researchers note, glisten brightly in the full moonlight, attracting insects.’

    The insects only get their chance at full moon, according to the research. Full moonlight is only apparent under clear skies of course, so something else would have to be the trigger for the plants IMO.

  15. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on the WeatherAction News Blog and commented:
    Most illuminating 😉

    The comments are well worth reading and following the links.

  16. oldbrew says:

    Skepteco said: ‘they know full well that the moon’s gravitational pull only influences very large unbounded bodies of water such as oceans and the larger great lakes’

    Unless they happen to be somewhere near the equator?

    ‘Lake Malawi is the ninth largest lake in the world. The lake forms the eastern border between Mozambique and Malawi. The lake is unusual in that it does not have tides or currents.’

  17. Brian H says:

    Co-ordination is critical to fertilization patterns, and the full moon happens to be a convenient marker. Maybe just all doing the right thing at the same time? The monthly light curve is probably detectable by primitive sensor cells on the plant somewhere.

  18. Gary says:

    Numerous marine organisms are reproductively keyed to the lunar cycle, including some algae. Certainly there must be some research into cause and effect that could inform this investigation of Ephedra.

  19. oldbrew says:

    ‘Studies of fiddler crabs, for example, have shown that even when kept in the lab under constant light and temperature, the animals are still most active at the times that the tide would be out. A similar internal ‘circalunar’ clock is thought to tick inside many animals, running in synchrony with the Moon and tides, and working in conjunction with the animal’s 24-hour circadian clock. ‘

  20. Bloke down the pub says:

    This crowd have been working with this for ages.

  21. husq says:

    Nothing to do with pollination but maybe interesting?

    He discovered that buds change form rhythmically,

    and that the rhythms are those of the alignments of the Moon with Bodies of the Solar System.

  22. oldmanK says:

    Quote “Or take ants milking aphids, ever watched? One cure, not of the aphids but does stop the ants is a grease band around a shrub trunk. These tend to spread infections.”

    Another cure. Take a wet rug and squash the aphids with it against the trunk. They won’t use that branch again.

  23. tchannon says:

    I don’t wear a toupée. I suppose a sporran might do it. Did try the pipes a couple of years ago with mixed results, had no effect on the weevlies but the apples fell off, saved a lot of time, got a sore head anyway.

  24. oldbrew says:

    ‘Moon’s gravity could govern plant movement like the tides’

    ‘Some plants’ leaves rise and fall during the day-night cycle, mostly in reaction to light in their environment. But plants grown in the dark have similar cycles, which hints that something else – generally accepted to be a form of internal circadian clock – may be at work as well.’