Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pollinator Week: Wednesday

The Psiguria Vine in our Tropical Butterfly House is flowering! In the past, our horticulture team has had trouble getting this vine to flower. Psiguria Vine, Psiguria umbrosa, is a very slender plant that has toppled, broken, or sprouted in areas where we couldn’t support it. But with coaxing and teamwork, we finally got it growing.



Growing in our Tropical Butterfly House, this wonderful little vine has a very special pollination relationship with one family of butterflies: the Heliconiidae. Heliconius (long wing) butterflies visit Psiguria Vines every day not only for nectar but also for pollen. While most butterflies can’t digest pollen, this group of Lepidoptera can digest pollen from this flower – and it helps them live for much longer than most butterflies –sometimes for four months or more!


Psiguria Vine is monoecious, meaning it has separate male and female flowers on the same vine. To produce fruit, a pollinator must visit the flower – first to a male flower, then to a female. So the plant and the butterfly mutually benefit each other. The vine does best when there are lots of Heliconius butterflies around. Luckily, the butterflies love Psiguria and flock to it when it’s available. In fact, younger long wing butterflies learn where the vine is by following their elders.


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