Unique Pollination System of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit 

Unique Pollination System of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit 

Most plants must be pollinated to reproduce, but their methods vary enormously, sometimes involving wind, birds, animals, or insects. However, the unique pollination system of the jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum ) depends on fungus gnats. 

The jack-in-the-pulpit’s hood resembles pitcher plants that capture and digest insects. Unlike its carnivorous counterparts, this plant uses insects, particularly fungus gnats, for pollination. It lures and ensnares these gnats by emitting a mushroom-like fragrance they find irresistible. The male flowers, blooming first, attract the gnats, which then become dusted with pollen. They manage to escape through a small hole, perfectly sized for a gnat but too small for larger insects. 

The female flowers bloom next, and the gnats carry the pollen to the flower of another jack-in-the-pulpit. This cross-pollination prevents in-breeding for healthier plants. The female flowers don’t have an escape hole, so after the gnats pollinate the flowers, they are trapped and die. But, before the gnats die, they lay their eggs inside the jack-in-the-pulpit. The larvae that hatch from the eggs eat the jack-in-the-pulpit’s blossom as it decays. When the hood of the plant withers, the adult fungus gnats fly away so they can pollinate more jack-in-the-pulpits. 

This unique pollination system of the jack-in-the-pulpit assures the continued survival of the plant and the gnats while controlling the gnat population. The complexity of this system shows design rather than random chance. The more we know of the creation, the more we can see the design skill and wisdom of the Creator. 

— John N. Clayton © 2024

References: ScienceNews and Wikipedia