As flower and plant lovers, we often associate them with décor, landscaping or centerpieces when in fact we are limiting our interpretation by not realizing that flora and fauna play active roles in our environment. For instance, some species encourage the breeding of other imperative vegetation, insects and in some circumstances animals. They supply the needed nutrients for critters as well as provide shelter and habitats for millions of different varieties of life. Yes, plants and flowers capabilities move far past their characteristics of beauty and provide essential food, warmth and shelter for many of the earth’s inhabitants. Since their role is so imperative to maintaining a healthy ecological system, it made me wonder if they possess the necessary defense mechanisms that other moving life may have. Surprisingly, I found several examples of plants that not only have the capability to protect them from danger but can also use insects and animals to act as their personal weapons. I know it sounds wild but there are actually some examples of growing vegetation that are gifted in this sense and can actually fight off potential harm by befriending other members gifted by Mother Nature, the most impressive being a flower called the “Black Mustard Plant”.
Black Mustard is a seemingly pretty, yellow, wild flower that commonly grows in bulk across fields and cliffs closely situated near the sea. Also called, Brassisca Nigra, this flower is a customary meal for butterflies and their offspring, the caterpillar. Butterflies use the plant stem and leaves to lay their eggs until they’re ready for hatching. Once the ova matures, a caterpillar is born and is conveniently brought into the world laying right next to it’s primary food supply, the Black Mustard plant. Caterpillars have long been the enemy of this species because they have historically, wiped out entire crops just by munching up and down the leaf stock.
Now here’s where things get interesting…
Once the plant has detected a caterpillar egg, it releases a chemical through its pods, which signals its ally, the wasp. Nearby wasps will instantly pick up on the SOS signal and locate the Black Mustard plant that is in distress. The stinging insect then assesses the stem and leaves until they’ve found the butterfly’s eggs and then proceeds to destroy the contents.
Now this is where things get even more interesting…
Instead of leaving the remains, the wasp in turn uses the material for her own eggs! Carefully, the new eggs are deposited inside the caterpillar shell and will successfully provide the needed home for the baby wasps. Although the mustard plant and the wasp are an unlikely pairing for friendship, together they have managed to protect and nourish one another in their natural habitats.
Isn’t nature something!