By Alex Fox
Scientists have discovered a type of fungus in Guyana that sprouts fake flowers that are dead ringers for the canary yellow blooms of the grasses it infects—all to trick insects into spreading its spores, reports Priyanka Runwal for Scientific American.
The fungus, called Fusarium xyrophilum, apes the flowers of two species of yellow-eyed grasses found in the savannas of Guyana. The fungus infects the entire plant and, in a more sinister turn, sabotages the plant’s mechanism for producing real flowers so that its imposters are the only game in town, reports Paul Simons for the Guardian.
According to a statement, the fraudulent flowers’ mimicry goes beyond the obvious physical resemblance. To lure in pollinator insects such as bees, the fungus’s spongy florets also contain pigments that reflect light on the ultraviolet spectrum, which bees and other nectar specialists use to find flowers. But the disguise doesn’t stop there.