Word of the Day: Sapromyophily

It’s Thursday of National Pollinator Week, and today let’s look at some other forgotten pollinators: flies. Specifically, carrion-fly and dung-flies that pollinate plants, a process called sapromyophily.fly on flower

The flowers these flies pollinate produce smells mimicking decaying flesh, urine, or farts.  These smells are created in part by the happily-named amines putrescine and cadaverine.
(Helpful Hint for Dudes: Do NOT give these flowers as a Valentine’s gift!)

Sapromyophilic flowers are commonly red to mimic meat, and some of them also produce heat, to further mimic decomposing flesh or a recently dropped turd.

Several American flowers are pollinated by carrion flies:  Jack in the Pulpit, Dutchman’s Pipe, Pawpaw, Red Trillium, and (surprise!) Skunk Cabbage.

Normally carrion and flesh flies lay eggs on a source of rotting protein; so many plants have tricks to keep the flies from leaving after they discover no actual rotting flesh to feed or lay eggs on.  Some have downward facing hairs or compartments to trap the flies until they receive or deliver a dose of pollen.

The catchy name of “corpse flower” has been given to the largest flower in the world, which spells strongly like urine and dead meat. And there’s a reason the Genus is Amorphophallus. It’s a bit…suggestive….when fully, um, erect.

Please report back on how you are able to work the word of the day into a conversation.

3 thoughts on “Word of the Day: Sapromyophily

  1. I had the good fortune of being at UC-Davis when their corpse flower was in full bloom! It was amazing. “Amorphophallus”=the penis without a shape?

  2. Well, it is a bit wrinkly….
    perhaps it would be best if I didn’t pursue that thought. :)

    So what was the smell like? How bad was it?
    That must have been really cool.

  3. I’ve heard that the chemicals putrescine and cadaverine are two of the main culprits responsible for morning breath. Can anyone else confirm this?

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