Gender-bending flowers spice forests | Science News

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Gender-bending flowers spice forests

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9:15pm, April 3, 2001

Ginger flowers switch their working gender–from female to male or vice versa–in unison around lunchtime.

This newly discovered synchronized gender swap in nine species of the genus Alpinia reduces the risk of inbreeding, say Qing-Jun Li of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Mengla and his colleagues. They report their findings in the March 22 Nature.

The researchers observed ginger plants in a Yunnan rainforest. Each day, the plants open 2 to 10 flowers, which last only to the end of that day.

Some of the plants start the morning as females with their pollen collector, or stigma, extending downward below male flower parts. In

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