When it comes to love most of the plants in our garden are a little like cavemen! It’s all a bit club to the back of the head and drags you off into a cave rather than the blousy, fancy, flirtatiousness of flowers!
The female bits of ferns and club mosses don’t get much of a choice as to whether they are going to be fertilised or not as their marriages are arranged by their parent from birth. The parent plant produces many spores that grow into a heart shaped gametophyte containing both male and female reproductive cells. The sperm from the men swim over to the women and a baby is born!
When it comes to pines and cycads the males are sent off on the wind to conquer. Billions of pollen grains are left to chance as to whether they find a female cone or not. Luckily pines and cycads like their ladies large and the cones are big enough to be found.
But it’s not all down to the men doing the work! Female Gingko actually capture their men so as to reproduce. Their rotting smelly fruit tardily dropped on the floor produce a small opening called a micropyle where it produces a small viscous droplet to capture a pollen grain that the male trees produced the previous spring. The micropyle then closes trapping the pollen in a liquid sack where it germinates into free swimming spermatozoids and wham bam thank you mam a baby Gingko is produced!
Mosses are slightly more depraved in that their babies actually parasitize their mother for a while before they head off to become new plants. Some of the club mosses are not that into sex anyway and prefer to make little clones of them-selves than have to deal with all that palaver.
So plants had love and sex pretty well sussed before insect pollinators came on the scene it was just a little more hmmmmm primeval and definitely no valentines cards involved.
Happy Valentine’s Day 2012!