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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 July, 2004, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Bee is key to flower power
Orphium Frutescens
The flower is stimulated by the carpenter bee
An exotic plant which only releases pollen when it feels the buzz of an African bee is flowering in Wales.

The sea rose, Orphium frutescens, is stimulated into producing pollen when it senses the hum of the carpenter bee from its native South Africa.

No other bee has this effect on the plant, which is growing at Middleton, the National Botanic Garden of Wales, near Carmarthen.

Gardeners have described it as a "beautiful balance of nature".

The plant, which has pink flowers, was grown from seed at the Great Glasshouse.

Sadly, however, as the carpenter bee is unlikely to find its way to Carmarthenshire, the fascinating plant will not be producing its own seed.

Jessica Gould, senior horticulturalist at the site, said: "It's an amazing story of a plant responding to the hum of a particular bee.

"Obviously it doesn't get pollinated over here.

"We grew the plant from seed supplied to us from South Africa.

"It's an exceptionally lovely pinky-purple flower and we all look forward to it coming out this time each year," she said.

The pollen is released only when the pollen producing parts of the plant vibrate at a very specific frequency.

This can only be reached by the buzzing provided by the carpenter bees, which crouching over the anthers and vibrating their bodies, which causes the pollen to shoot out onto them.

"The story of this flower and this bee encapsulates the delicate but beautiful balance of nature and the importance of keeping eco-systems intact," said Ms Gould.

"If the bee dies off, then so does the plant," she added.

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