Gday from WA

Wildflowers of Western Australia

Welcome to the amazing world of Triggerplants

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Donkey Stylidium diuroides
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A triggerplant has a spring-loaded touch-sensitive column hidden under the petals which flicks over when an insect lands on the flower for a feed of nectar.

At the end of this column is the male and female parts of the flower. (anther and stigma)

This action either deposits or collects pollen depending on the cycle of the plant.

Stylidium pollination Pollinator
Bee Bop

The pollen filled anthers (male) appears first on the young flower, then as it matures the sticky stigma (female) takes over and is ready to collect pollen. This cycle prevents self pollination.

Most of the bees I have seen visiting these flowers have a worn spot on their back where they have been repeatedly whacked by the column.

More bee pics About to trigger Whacked Good Shooting

The small lobes in the centre of this beautiful Queen Triggerplant prevents access to the nectar unless the insect lands on the lower petals.

The clever design of the flower forces the insect to land on the same position each time.

These plants are amazingly precise.

To avoid producing hybrids, different species of triggerplants have various shape and lengths of the column, which can strike from under, over or even from the side.

Therefore an insect visiting two species can be struck at different locations on the body.

These triggerplants strike the insect on the underside of the abdomen like "a punch in the guts". oh!

So named because the flower closes like a book at night or in cold weather.

Two petals

99% of triggerplants have two pairs of petals. smile

Here you can see 2, 3, 5 and 6 petalled varieties but they are very rare.

3 Three petals 5 Five petals 5 Five petals 6 Six petals

Pins-and-needles Stylidium dichotomum
Pins and Needles

After the column has been triggered it gradually resets, usually within an hour, ready to assault another innocent insect looking for nectar or pollen.

White Butterfly Stylidium hispidum
White Butterfly

About 70% of the world's 250+ known species of stylidium occur only in the South-West of Western Australia, highlighting this area as the major center of triggerplant evolution.

Stylidium is the fifth largest genus in Australia.

Click on this image to see the trigger action in more detail.

Stylidium are believed to be carnivorous (or protocarnivorous).

It has been reported that the numerous sticky glands on the flowering parts of triggerplants secrete enzymes to trap and digest tiny insects.

If this proves to be true, the addition of this genus would almost double the number of known carnivorous plants.

The largest of all triggerplants and named for the powerful 'kick' when triggered.

These are only 5cm (2in) tip to tip, so most stylidium flowers are very small.

Small children are advised not to touch these flowers. wink

Class: Gymnospermae

Subclass: Dicotyledonae

Superorder: Asteridae

Order: Campanulales

Family: Stylidiaceae

The innocence of the flower belies the mamba-shaped head of the column, ready to strike and just as fast.


Click on the image to see this in detail.

Boomerang Triggerplant - Stylidium breviscapum

For more detailed information check out the Wikipedia Triggerplant page.

Triggered Check out the opening bud. Lovely Triggerplant Stylidium udusicola Book Triggerplants

More stylidium images