NATURE IS BEAUTIFUL (VOL. IX – Nocturnal Pollinators w/ Botanist’s Selenotrope)
Let’s talk the
birds bats and the bees… and the moths.
Selenotropism refers to the ability of some plants to move toward the light of the moon. Fittingly VIII: Selenotrope finds Botanist’s phytocentric subject matter taking root in themes of night, rebirth, the moon-as-lifegiver, and chanting the scientific names of plants that flower at night (excepting the one verse in “Epidendrum Nocturnum” where I’m pretty confident Otrebor yells “Fraxinus!”, which is predominantly wind-pollinated).
In the spirit of these themes, here are 6 cool nocturnal pollinators you can invoke to get in the right headspace for 57 minutes of kick-ass, verdant, hammered dulcimer black metal about the secret night lives of plants:
A Bitchin’ Moth!
Moths are doing the bulk of animal-mediated pollination at night. The plants explicitly named in Selenotrope’s song titles are all night flowering (of course), and all have the potential to be moth pollinated. Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia sp.) in particular exhibits the classic “moth pollination syndrome” in that many species have bright white or light colored flowers that produce a sweet, pungent fragrance at night. Visualizing the olfaction-dominated worldview of a moth (uhh, olfactalizing?) will definitely get you in the mood for Otrebor’s shimmering, dulcimer-led prayer to Brugmansia and its ability to sequester horribly toxic tropane alkaloids into its tissues!
A Honey Possum!
Insects far and away dominate at providing pollination services to plants, but there are some freak plants out there that make use of vertebrates for their pollen transport needs, particularly in the tropics. Many of these pollinators are birds, many are bats, but a few of these weirdos are arboreal, non-winged mammals. “What, like a monkey?” You may ask. Yeah sure, but don’t limit yourself. Think outside the box a bit, like our man Otrebor did when he penned a hammered dulcimer hymn exalting the plant genus Mirabilis, aka the four-o’ clocks. No, think weird mammals. Think marsupials. Think that blasted southern land home to most extant species of marsupials and a bunch of snakes that want to kill you. That’s right, we’re talking Honey Possums, baby! Honey Possums (Tarsipes rostratus) are one of the only known palynivorous (pollen-eating) mammals. These Australian weirdos have a brush-like tongue and highly-modified teeth designed for munching exclusively on tiny pollen grains and lapping up sweet nectar from Banksia, Protea, and various eucalypts. Way 2 Flex those imagination muscles and embrace that weird flower slurping marsupial vibe, so you can truly appreciate the sweet reverberations of your favorite hammered dulcimer black metal band!
This Fucked Up Nocturnal Bee!
So listen, don’t go out black lighting for nocturnal insects expecting to find bees. The vast majority are diurnal, and I don’t want my credentials as a bug guy tarnished by toilet-fetish-blog-reading yahoos with poor reading comprehension going out looking for bees at night. That said, in South America there are a few genera of augochlorine sweat bee that conduct their buzzy business at night. The most widespread of these nocturnal bees are the Megalopta, pictured above. What better critter to evoke while listening to the triumphant opening bars of album opener “Against the Selenic Light” than the fucked up looking bee that triumphed against Night Time through various low-light living adaptations, including incredibly large compound eyes and extra large ocelli (a triplet of light-sensing, ocular organs found on the top of bees, ants, and wasps heads)?
A Plant Itself?
That’s right, turns out a lot of plants don’t need an animal to help them get their freak on. They can just do it themselves! This pollination strategy is called “auto-pollination” and is achieved through a combination of floral structure and time. Basically, at some point in floral development its male gamete holding bit (anthers) and its female gamete holding bit (stigma) touch, allowing the plant to pollinate itself. This method is used by some species as a fail-safe mechanism for when pollinators or potential mates are scarce. In some cases auto-pollination becomes the predominant mode of reproduction for a population of individuals within a species, or even the whole species itself! Point in case, track 3 “Epidendrum Nocturnum” is named for a night flowering species of orchid that almost entirely self-pollinates. What better way to get in the mood for the liana-like, tendrilled complexity of “Epidendrum Nocturnum” than grappling with the heady questions that arise from considering life as an orchid that gets itself off in the dark.
Seriously There’s Like A Million Different Species Of Moth, You Should Consider A Moth
Look there’s no way around this, there’s just a fuck ton of moths, guys. If the meditative and exultant hammered dulcimer vibrations of track 6 “Selenotrope” conjures up visions of serenely dancing through the forest floor under the pale glow of the moon whilst you search for sweet, heavenly ambrosia, odds are you’d be some sort of moth. Odds are it’d also be a brownish, non-descript one too. There’re 12,000 species alone in the “small brown moth” family, the Noctuidae. If you go one level up in taxonomic rank to the “mostly small brown moths” super family, the Noctuoidea, we’re talking 70,000 recognized species. You can’t imagine your way out of probability, y’all. And even if you tried there’s a good chance your imaginative ass might accidentally visualize being a moth that doesn’t even eat, like the famed Luna Moth (Arctias luna). Yep, turns out some of the most charismatic moths emerge from their pupal stage mouthless. Existing only so long as their fat stores can propel them in search of a mate under the ever-present gaze of the moon. Destined to couple, then die. An ephemeral existence. Those jerks don’t even pollinate!
The chiroptera, or bats, are the second most diverse and prevalent of the vertebrate pollinators, behind birds. Bats are cool and kind of mysterious, so who wouldn’t want to envisage the high-flying, nectar-feasting, long-distance-pollen-transporting lifestyle of the lesser long-nosed bat? Or maybe the forest-dwelling, hygge-friendly ways of the tent-making bats are more your speed. Either are appropriate life histories for the anthemic chorus and lush instrumentation of closing track “The Flowering Dragon”. Especially because “The Flowering Dragon” referenced is potentially one of the night-flowering, bat-pollinated cacti in the genera Stenocereus or Selenicereus, the prickly bearers of pitaya/“dragonfruit”.