There’s a Cycad in Kew. I love them.

Kew Gardens - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Just like conifers and the Gingko tree, Cycads are gymnosperms, which means their unfertilised seeds are open to the air and free for simple pollination. They’re not like the angiosperms, the flowering plants, which evolved later. Cycads are dioecious, with plants being either male or female. Both sexes produce cones and fertilisation seems to rely on specific species of highly specialised beetles.

One of their other truly remarkable features is that they have incorporated some microbial genes within their own genetic material, probably from a fungus. When this horizontal gene transfer happens, it spreads if the genes happen to confer an advantage. In the case of Cycads, these foreign genes produce a toxin which acts as an insecticide. How cool is that?

Kew the applause.

Feel free to leave a Reply :)