Saturday, February 18, 2017

Green Pearls

Jasminum simplicifolium
If pearls came in green, I think this is what they would look like.

My stiff jasmine Jasminum simplicifolium  is laden with them at the moment.
When they ripen, they will look like this:

 and will be very appealing to fruit-eating birds.

The flowers that produced them looked like this:

Note the variation in the number of "petals". These jasmines can have anywhere between five and eight.

As with many white flowers, they would have been pollinated by moths attracted by the perfume. For those who are curious to find out whether moths are indeed the pollinators, a quick check of the perfume at night, after the day’s heat has worn off, will tell you. If the perfume is stronger (and Jasmines all have a lovely perfume), then you know that the plant has evolved to attract moths. You may even see the culprits while you are investigating.

A likely pollinator, is this big hawk moth.

Pollinators don't necessarily breed on the plant that produced the flowers they feed on, but this Psilogramma menephron does breed on native jasmines. (It is known as the “privet hawk moth”, because it also breeds on the introduced privet, as well as a number of other native and introduced  host plants).

Hawk moths have long tongues, and the long tube of the jasmine flower may have evolved to attract them while preventing other less effective pollinators from reaching the nectar at the base of the tube.

You need to be quick to catch a hawk moth feeding/pollinating, because these fast-flying night feeders dart in to a flower, hover (like a hummingbird) for just a split second, then dart off again.

We saw this Psilogramma menephron caterpillar on our Jasminum didymum subsp. racemosum last month.

Isn’t it a lovely thing? It was being attacked by ants at the time, and it was wriggling about catching them and biting them.

It looks almost ready to pupate. When quite ready, it would have dropped off and burrowed into the ground.

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