How monkeyflower gets its spots

A photo of a pretty yellow flower with red spots dotting the throat.

The yellow monkeyflower’s distinctive red spots serve as ‘landing pads’ for bees and other pollinators, helping them access the sweet nectar inside. A new study reveals the genetic programming that creates these attractive patterns. (Image by PollyDot via PixaBay)

The intricate spotted patterns dappling the bright blooms of the monkeyflower plant may be a delight to humans, but they also serve a key function for the plant. These patterns act as “bee landing pads,” attracting nearby pollinators to the flower and signaling the best approach to access the sweet nectar inside.

“They are like runway landing lights, helping the bees orient so they come in right side up instead of upside down,” said Benjamin Blackman, assistant professor of plant and molecular biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

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