Virtual Museum of Canada
Jardin botanique de Montréal 
Centre for Forest Research

Listening... to see better

The flowers of a cannonball tree are shaped like dish antennas and grow on its trunk. This singular appearance is a way for the Couroupita guianensis to ensure that pollinators can easily find its flowers. Can you guess which pollinator the tree hopes to attract? Here's a hint: it uses echolocation (Guidance through the echo of sound pulses.) to visualize its environment. Yes, that's right: the tree's flowers are extremely visible to... bats! When flowers grow directly on the trunk of a plant, like the Couroupita, it is called cauliflory (Phenomenon referring to trees which flower and fruit directly from their trunks.). Cacao trees, whose beans chocolate-lovers have come to know and love, are probably the best-known cauliflorous plants.

And then there's the baobab, which uses an entirely different technique to attract these flying mammals.

Videoclip Transcription

Photo of a baobab flower turned towards the ground
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