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Nesocodon mauritianus

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Plenty of the read nectar.

Author: Mats Thulin 1980
Family:  Campanulaceae
Habitat:   Mauritius
Soil:   Peat - Mix
Water:   Medium
Sun:   Medium
Height:  40 centimetres
Flower:   Pale Blue
Propagate:   Seeds/(Cuttings?)
Names:   Blaue Mauritiusglocke
Synonyms:  Might be: Wahlenbergia mauritiana, I. Richardson 1979

This member of the Campanulaceae family was described by Mats Thulin in 1980. It is only found in the cliffs of Mauritius, where it is disappearing from, because of imported insects. It grows in small pockets of peat on the step cliffs with some water and some sun. It raises for 40 centimetres, the flowers are pale blue, and besides seeds, it might be possible to reproduce it from cuttings.

The plants are polinated by birds, and its secretes is the scarlet-red nectar. Only two other plants does that: Trochetia blackburniana and Trochetia boutoniana, both also from Mauritius.

A team of Danish researchers led by Jens Olesen (Aarhus University) has been studying these Mauritian flowers to determine why red nectar evolved. They point out that, since red nectar is extremely rare, it is unlikely to provide any pollinating advantage, otherwise it would occur more commonly. Does the red substance act as a signal or warning? During observations, the researchers witnessed birds stealing nectar and tearing flowers to pieces and concluded that 'seeing red' doesn't deter nectar thieves or protect flowers.

Olesen and colleagues instead suggest that red nectar may have coevolved with a pollinating bird species that is now extinct. Since the 16th century, the island of Mauritius has been steadily losing native species due to habitat destruction and over-hunting. By 1680, 28 bird species had disappeared. Today there are just 11 native bird species, eight of which are endangered. Perhaps the riddle of red nectar may be answered by a ghost from the past. In the hope of pinning down this ghost, the researchers are currently searching among recently extinct Mauritian birds for likely candidates.