|One of my favorite plants is this cultivar of|
Anthurium andreanum, with spathes of
pure, bright red. If treated well, it will bloom
It has been speculated that the red to orange spathes in wild plants help birds find the ripe fruits, which they would eat, fly off, and thereby disperse the seeds. It's a common dispersal adaptation, found even in the most archaic of angiosperms (e.g. Amborella), and it may very well be true in this species, as well as many other species of Anthurium.
In all members of the Aroid family, flowers are tiny and crowded onto the elongate spadix. There have been many observations of pollination by tiny flies, beetles and other insects in various species of Anthurium, and it has been assumed that birds would take no notice of them. That was until recently.
A 2019 article by Bleiweiss et al. provides the best evidence so far for bird-pollination in Anthuriums with red or other brightly colored spathes. It wasn't the first evidence of the possibility, as Bleiweiss cites a paper from some 20 years earlier by Kraemer and Schmitt making similar, if not as thorough, observations.
This reminded me of seeing nectar drops on an Anthurium andreanum specimen in the Bailey Hortorium greenhouse at Cornell, some 50 years ago, and wondering the same thing. That picture is posted below. You can see the nectar exuding from several of the tiny flowers. A patient hummingbird could get a decent meal by collecting a series of these droplets.
Makes me think about some other pollination mysteries ... stay tuned.
|Anthurium andreanum growing in a greenhouse at Cornell University around 1970. note the tiny droplets on some of the upper flowers (enlarged below).|