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Unlike human sexual intercourse, plants produce pollen in order for them to multiply. However, since they are plants, they have no way of distributing the pollen they produce. As a result, they usually enlist the help of the wind, as well as animals and insects to help carry their pollen for them and fertilize other plants.
This is usually how the cycle goes. But some plants take it to a higher level to ensure that their pollen (or in some cases, nectar) gets to places. One good example is the Hymenaea cangaceira, a species of plant whose flowers make so much nectar that they can actually fall on your head in copious amounts, much like rain. Sweet, flowery rain.
It’s Raining Nectar
The discovery was made by Arthur Domingos de Melo, a plant biologist, who at the time was in the arid Caatinga region of northeast Brazil to study bat pollination of local plants. Along with his colleagues at the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil, the team had been conducting research for over two decades when in 2015, they discovered an odd bat-pollinated tree. According to their findings, the plant’s nectar was imbued with its own perfume rather than just its flower petals, and the plant made lots of it. So much in fact, that de Melo first discovered it by getting “showered on” while under a tree canopy.
From there, the team saw themselves studying H. cangaceira and its population from the year 2015 to 2018. Located in Brazil’s Catimbau National Park, hundreds of flowers bloom on each tree and drip with nectar before wilting as the dawn comes, all during December and March, its reproductive season.
According to the researchers, the trees may have developed this ability to attract bat pollinators since they are the only ones that get close to pick up the pollen.
“There are so few studies that have tested nectar for scent that once we start looking there is likely to be many more examples. Scents in nectar are probably common, but we are a very long way from understanding their functional roles and if there is any differences with various pollinators,” Amy Parachnowitsch, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, Canada, said.