Plant Sex Mysteries Finally Revealed. Thanks, Science!
It's harder than it ought to be to find a photo of a plant penis.
Finally! Scientists at the University of Leicester have cracked one of life’s great mysteries—how do plants have sex? What’s the secret? Well, when two plants love each other very much…
The specific plant sex mystery in question is how a single grain of pollen produces the twin sperm cells needed to fertilize the egg cell. Unlike animal sex, flowering plants need two sperm cells to successfully reproduce. One sperm fertilizes the egg, and the second joins with another cell to produce endosperm inside the egg.
Research published in the journal The Plant Cell by a team at the University of Leicester’s Twell Lab points to a two genes, DAZ1 and DAZ2, that are key to creating the necessary twin sperm cells. The discovery was made when the team found that plants with mutations on these genes could not produce pollen with sperm cells, and instead only created single sperm pollen which simply can’t get the job done.
DAZ1 and DAZ2 work with the plant protein TOPLESS (sexy!). This is the first time TOPLESS has been associated with sperm production in plants, though sperm production in humans has long been associated with things being TOPLESS.
With this new information on how plants get down to business, we may be able to better control plant sex to control or avoid unwanted pollination. Although, an abstinence-only approach probably wouldn’t even work for plants.