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The Loneliest Plant In The World : Krulwich Wonders… : NPR - 1 views

    When a cycad is ready to reproduce, it grows a large colorful cone, rich with pollen or seed. It signals its readiness by radiating heat or sending out attractive odors to pollinators, who travel back and forth. Once fertilized, the seed-rich cone is ripped apart by hungry seed carriers (who've included over the years, not just birds and insects, but dinosaurs, pterosaurs, bats; these trees have been eaten by just about everybody).
    But what if you can't find a mate? The tree in London (and its clones that are now growing in botanical gardens all over the world) is a male. It can make pollen. But it can't make the seeds. That requires a female.
    Researchers have wandered the Ngoya forest and other woods of Africa, looking for an E. woodii that could pair with the one in London. They haven't found a single other specimen. They're still searching. Unless a female exists somewhere, E. woodii will never mate with one of its own. It can be cloned. It can have the occasional fling with a closely related species. Hybrid cycads are sold at plant stores, but those plants aren't the real deal. The tree that sits in London can't produce a true offspring. It sits there, the last in its long line, waiting for a companion that may no longer exist.
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