The Alpine Garden is good for surprises. Occasionally, plants emerge from the ground which were thought long-dead, and so it was with this Babiana ringens that we were amazed to see in 2003 in the African bed. It originally had been planted in 1979 and not visible for at least a few years.
Brent Hine, the curator of the Alpine Garden [in 2005], has since transplanted it into the bulb frame, where the warmth and shelter is more conducive to growth and flowering. This photograph was from Thursday (April 28), while the one in the link was taken at the beginning of June–a full four weeks later.
Quentin Cronk, director of the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research [in 2005], submitted this summary published in Nature a few days after this entry was originally published:
Nature 435, 41-42 (5 May 2005) | 10.1038/435041a
Botany: Specialized bird perch aids cross-pollination
Bruce Anderson, William W. Cole and Spencer C. H. Barrett
Birds may hover over or perch on flowers when feeding on nectar, and this assists cross-pollination if they then visit other plants. Here we investigate the curious sterile inflorescence axis of the South African Cape endemic ‘rat’s tail’ plant (Babiana ringens, Iridaceae), whose function–unlike in other bird-pollinated plants–is exclusively to provide a perch for foraging birds. We find that this structure promotes the plant’s mating success by causing the malachite sunbird (Nectarinia famosa), its main pollinator, to adopt a position ideal for the cross-pollination of its unusual ground-level flowers.
Welcome to all readers of Nature! I’ve added a habit photograph of the plant so that you can check out the sterile inflorescence axis. While you’re here, feel free to browse around the rest of the UBC site.