World's "shiest" flower discovered on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

Chinese researchers have discovered the world's "shiest" flower, which can close within seven seconds after being touched, on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, known as "the roof of the world."

Researchers from the Hubei University, Wuhan Botanical Garden under Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan University and Tibet University have found four species of Gentiana that responded to mechanical stimulation with rapid corolla contraction and full closure, according to a study published in the journal Science Bulletin.

"It was startling to witness with the naked eye. The flowers disappeared momentarily in front of you," said Dai Can, a professor at Hubei University's School of Resources and Environmental Science, one of the scientists who led the study.

The four species, namely Gentiana sp. unidentified, G. pseudoaquatica, G. prostrata var. karelinii, and G. clar- kei, take seven to 210 seconds to exhibit such movements, making them the most sensitive and fast-reacting flowers in the world ever known, according to the researchers. After the full closure, flowers can reopen in the next 21 minutes on average given a clear sky.

After conducting a series of observations and experiments, researchers found that the corolla closure is triggered by large insects such as bumblebees.

Due to bumblebees' large body sizes and vigorous manipulations, 98.8 percent of the flowers they visited displayed induced floral closure. When the flowers closed, their visibility was largely reduced and thus might escape from further visits when a bumblebee still hovered nearby.  

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