The Pelican Flower is a vine from Central America.
|Image: Kew on Flickr|
The flower is a sickly, greenish white colour with dark purple veins emanating from a foreboding tunnel which exudes the stench of rot and decay.
|Image: Cary Bass|
I'm not really into sewers. Neither are butterflies, usually. But you know who loves that stuff? Flies, of course! They're attracted to the stench and begin to explore the inner sanctum of the sewer.
|Image: Brian Chiu|
|Image: Brian Henderson|
In any case, those flies crawl within the neck of the pelican, directed by hairs that lead them ever onward and prevent them from turning around and getting out. Eventually they reach a dead end and... Shock! Horror! Not a single corpse! And there's no way out! THERE'S NO WAY OUT!
The flies are trapped for the rest of the day and night, during which time the male part of the flower matures and drenches the prisoners in pollen. With this job done, the Pelican Flower immediately begins to wither and die such that the flies can escape.
The big hope is that the flies won't be enjoying their freedom for long. Hopefully they'll climb straight into another Pelican Flower. They just can't resist that stench! This time they'll be covered in pollen to pollinate the flower. They'll still have to stay in overnight, though. And get drenched in a load more pollen again before they can escape.
Hopefully they won't enjoy their freedom too long...
Hey! You know one thing that feeds on living Pelican Flower? Butterflies! Swallowtail caterpillars, to be exact. Pelican Flowers, like other members of the Aristolochia genus, are full of all sorts of toxins which protect them from a lot of herbivores. Swallowtails, however, are able to eat the plant, take over the toxins and use them as defence against their own predators.
I can't help but feel that the Pelican Flower fell foul of some kind of butterfly protection racket. "Give me your nectar or the leaves get it."