Bee orchids have evolved to mimic the appearance of female bees
One of the "finest examples of a flower that has evolved to look like an insect" is currently in bloom outside the Biosciences Building , in North Campus.
Bee orchids not only imitate the appearance of bees but even emit a chemical scent, or pheromone, to trick male bees into attempting to copulate with it, increasing its chances of cross-pollination.
Meriel Jones and James Hartwell , from the University’s Institute of Integrative Biology , study the flowers as part of their research into climate change. Hartwell said: "Whilst the male bee pseudocopulates with the labellum of the bee orchid, it is in the perfect position for a sticky pad known as the viscidium to attach to the head of the visiting male bee. This sticky pad is connected to the male part of the orchid known as the pollinia. When the bee leaves the orchid he will have the pollinia attached to his head. When he visits the next bee orchid flower, the pollinia are positioned in just the right way for them to stick to the female part of the flower. Thus, the male bee is duped into cross-pollinating the bee orchid and gains nothing himself."
Lengthened flowering period
Orchids produce the smallest and lightest seeds known amongst seed plants, allowing them to be carried long distances on the winds. Bee orchids are also good at colonising recently disturbed areas of ground, with low nutrient levels, but often grow below ground for five to eight years before sending a green shoot above the surface. They can be found on the Wirral peninsula, the dunes at Crosby and areas where soils are influenced by limestone or chalk.