The curious plant enlisting wasps and ants to its ranks

The Stemona tuberosa is an odd-looking climbing plant with four long straight petals. It lets out a strong smell of antiseptic and has been used to make pesticides. The plant also has a unique way of spreading its seeds thanks to wasps and ants.

When wasps fly close to the Stemona tuberosa, they would hover above around 10 centimeters before swooping down on the plant, as if preying on insects.

After chewing off the elaiosome, the oily tissue surrounding seeds, the wasps would eventually abandon the rest. Ants would then take the seeds, carrying them even farther away.

General information about the Stemona tuberosa. /CGTN Graphic

General information about the Stemona tuberosa. /CGTN Graphic

While it may look harmless, humans should take note. If accidentally ingested, its poisonous tuber can induce nausea and even impair breathing. The plant's sap can also can cause skin irritation.

(Cover image, Kunming City, Yunnan Province, southwest China /Liu Bing, Luli Studio)

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