Plant Sexuality And Political
| Is Polygamy
Legal Within The Kingdom Of Plants?
How Do Plants Practice Safe Sex With Other Plants?
Can A Plant Be
Homosexual? How About Unisexual?
Why Is The Term
"Deflowered" Politically Incorrect?
Plants That Germinate In The U.S.
Automatically Become United States Citizens?
plants have evolved one of the most complex and "sexiest"
life cycles on earth. In fact, they have "double fertilization"
involving two sperm rather than the usual one. In a mature seed, the
embryo originates from a zygote formed by the fusion of sperm #1 with
an egg inside the embryo sac. Sperm #2 fuses with the two polar nuclei
forming the nutrient-rich endosperm tissue. When you consume coconut
meat, coconut milk or popcorn you are eating endosperm. In the case of
popcorn, the endosperm has exploded due to the pressure build-up
inside the grain. Botanists have devised all sorts of terms to explain
plant sexuality including unisexual, bisexual, asexual, self-fertile,
self-sterile and polygamous. At least 90% of all flowering plants have
bisexual flowers containing male and female organs. Many of these
species avoid inbreeding and incest by having their sex organs mature
at different times. In protogyny the female organ is receptive before
the male is mature, and in protandry the male is ready before the
female is receptive. This cleaver strategy favors cross pollination
between different individuals. Some plants have only unisexual flowers
and are dioecious with separate male and female individuals in the
population--like date palms, edible figs, willows, cottonwoods,
marijuana and people. The term homosexual is probably not politically
correct for plants, although many plants are unisexual with flowers of
only one sex. Poison oak is essentially dioecious, but it may also be
polygamous with bisexual and unisexual flowers on the same individual.
Figs are especially interesting because they have tiny unisexual male
and female flowers inside a fleshy structure called a syconium. A
minute female wasp squeezes into the syconium to pollinate the flowers
and lay her eggs. After a few months, the new generation of wasps have
an orgy inside the syconium and fertile females exit and start the
entire cycle over again.
the late 19th century, sexuality in plants was vigorously denounced by
staunch theologians who believed in the literal translation of the
Bible. According to Genesis 1, plants were created on the 3rd day. Not
until the 6th day were animals and people created, and the words
"male and female." Without male and female there could be no
sex, therefore plants did not have sex. Flowers were erroneously
considered sexless things of beauty. This preposterous assumption is
undoubtedly the origin of the unfortunate term "deflowered"
for a woman who has lost her virginity. Chauvinistic botanical
ignorance has been perpetuated for centuries, including ridiculous
ideas that the male contributes the seed. Not only does the female
contribute the seed and egg, but also the vital extrachromosomal genes
in cytoplasmic organelles called mitochondria and proplastids. The
latter organelles become chloroplasts--the photosynthetic life blood
of plants. Have you thanked your mother lately for your mitochondria?
|A full-blown case of anther smut (Ustilago violacea) on
the wildflower Silene verecunda ssp. platyota on
Palomar Mountain in San Diego County, California, USA. The
fungal disease on this native wildflower is definitely in the
time of sexual hysteria it is reassuring to know that plants also have
sexually transmitted diseases. One of the most serious is anther smut
(Ustilago violacea), the dreaded venereal disease of the plant
world. Anther smut belongs to the Class Basidiomycetes in the fungal
Division Eumycota. This debilitating fungal disease causes the male
organs (anthers) to blacken and shrivel, resulting in sterility and a
very unsightly floral appearance. Anther smut is spread by unsanitary,
promiscuous insect pollinators who carry the infectious spores from
one plant to another. The spores infect healthy individuals during the
spring flowering season, erupting in their sex organs a year later
when the plants once again enter their mating cycle. Floral castration
is a rather drastic measure and infected individuals are seldom taken
to a smut clinic, so diseased plants just keep on reinfecting the
population. Safe sex is effective, but slipping miniature condoms over
the anthers is tedious and much too impractical. Wise plants avoid the
risk of sexually transmitted diseases by developing an asexual life
style. They simply clone themselves vegetatively. Some can even
produce apomictic seeds without sex. The embryo develops
parthenogenetically from an unfertilized egg or from other cells in or
surrounding the embryo sac.