Today we are not gonna talk about animals but we gonna travel to China and discover a certain plant that has evolved in order to protect itself from predators. You may think that the predators are other plants or animals but you would guess wrong. In fact, the predators are us..humans!
Fritillaria Generic Info
So the plant's name is Fritillaria and belongs to the family of Liliaceae. There are more than 130 species and are divided among 8 subgenera. Their close relatives are lilies and there a few species that endangered due to the extreme picking, but we will talk later about this.
As you can see the flower has green charming leaves and a bell-shaped bulb yellow flowers (especially Fritillaria delavayi, it can be found in other colors as well, check the image above)
The name fritillaria is supposed to come from the Latin fritillus which basically is the name for the box with dice in it. it's like those popular gamble games if you remember! Last but not least the plant can be found in most temperate zones with Turkey, to have 39 species, following Iran with 14-15 and then distributed and can be found in Greece, California, China, Japan among others.
Distribution map of ten Fritillaria species in Europe and western and central Asia src
Fritillaria As Chinese Medicine
So the Chinese have a long history with this plant. In fact, it is considered an official drug in traditional Chinese medicine and its name translates as Shell mother from Sichuan. They believed that it can affect the heart and lung meridians and had 2 major uses.
The first one was to treat any related lung conditions like asthma, bronchitis, and coughs (fun fact i got bronchitis when i was a child, i should have tried this out!). What was basically supposed to do was to moisten dry mucous membranes, resolve phlegm, and control coughing! in China, it also can be used for lung cancer The second use is as a lymphatic decongestant to reduce swellings.
Most of you may know that animals change their colors in order to adapt to their environment, hunt, scare predators, or hide from them. There are many insects that are like that as well as octopus, chameleons ect etc.
They actually do that and they have a pretty good reason to do so. They need to protect themselves from other animals that are eating them as well as from us humans. Now i think you remember how tied Chinese medicine and Fritillaria are right?
To give you a better perspective,about 3,500 of them are needed to produce just one kilogram of the powder, worth about 480$. That means that a whole lot of people were after the flower, sometimes leading to its extinction. That's the main reason the flower itself evolved in order to hide and protect itself from us.
Before i talk more about Fritillaria and its evolution allow me to introduce to you Yang Niu, a researcher at the Kunming Institute of Botany at the Chinese Academy of Sciences who made a study about Plant Camouflage.
Let's go back to Fritillaria and the study around the plant. So the researchers focused on 8 different populations and asked the herb dealers for their picking records from the past six years in order to understand in which areas the most and least picking happens.
So basically, what they discovered was that in areas with no or less picking the plant can easily be distinguished by its leaves or everything else, whereas in areas with the most picking it's way harder to find it as the plan camouflaged itself to the colors of the ground!
they also went one step further as to create a small game and show you what's really happening. In the game, you basically try to spot the fritillaries as fast as you can! I've played it, it's quite fun, can you beat my score?
A Few Extra Words
As you can see everything around us is evolving! Humans, animals, plants are all living organisms with their own traits and circle of life. As human beings, we have to respect and protect nature and constantly try to study it, learn more from it and about it. That will lead us to greater inventions over time and a better understanding of ourselves!
Did you find this post interesting?
Posted with STEMGeeks