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Bunchberry flower. Photo: <a href="">James Anderson</a>, CC some rights reserved
Bunchberry flower. Photo: James Anderson, CC some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Exploding Flowers

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Some flowers open quickly, and some are even spring-loaded--like the venus fly trap--but the floral deployment speed record belongs to the lowly dogwood relative, the bunchberry, which when triggered opens its tiny four-petal bloom in less than a millisecond. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss flower power.

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Video: Exploding bunchberry in extreme slow motion

While some flowers recruit the help of pollinating insects by producing sweet nectars or are otherwise biologically engineered to entice potential pollinators, the bunchberry has a fairly peculiar and extreme method of dispersing its pollen to passersby.

When triggered by an insect or other pollinator, the bud of a bunchberry will explode into its flowered state so fast that it is not visible to the naked eye. As it flings opens, the hinged anther inside the flower projects pollen away from the flower and onto whatever is in range.

Even when viewed through a video camera at 10,000 frames a second, the motion is barely discernible. In the blink of an eye, the bunchberry is in bloom.

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