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Building Beauty

Deconstructing flowers yields the secrets of petals, scents and hue

1:58pm, March 27, 2009

Flowers are essentially variations on a single theme: Come hither. Instead of lipstick and lace, flowers advertise with vivid petals and ultraviolet stripes. Some plants offer a legitimate exchange of goods — visitors are rewarded with protein-rich pollen or sweet nectar. Other flowers deceive, mimicking the scent, color and feel of a rotting carcass to entice carrion flies looking for a suitable place to start a family. Even plants pollinated by the wind dress for success, taunting the air with copious, lightweight pollen.

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