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A little lily

A friend gave me a slip from her calla lily some time ago, it is quite unusual, small with a variegated leaf. This year it flowered, there are six flowers to date. They are small and slim for a calla, with a very delicate pale yellow spathe; that’s the bit that wraps around like a cloak and looks like a petal, but really it is an altered bract. Look down inside and you see the spadix, the little phallus of sexual organs, which is also yellow. Around the base of the spadix though the spathe is deep, deep, black, against which the spadix stands out like an eye. I stop quite often in passing and look, they are slightly mesmerising, and so elegant.

I noticed a small fly on the edge of the cone, apparently in some difficulty, and went to brush it off. As my hand moved near the flower a small green spider with a red spot on him emerged from behind the fly and retreated to the blackness at the base of the flower. That was when I noticed the web the fly had not, stretched right across the mouth of the flower.

Was it chance, I wondered, that the spider had chosen such a fortuitous spot, selected by nature to attract pollinators, or is it a case of parallel evolution? Both genetically attracted to the flower, whose genetics make it attractive; plant insect, and arachnid in balance. If the spiders were too successful in employing this tactic they would colonise every flower and stop the calla producing seeds. If so never mind! The calla has also developed the ability to appeal to humans who tend it and reproduce it vegetatively, enter the mammals.

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Olly Buckle
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