Turning up the heat!

Published: Thursday 31 October 1996

the beautiful lotus flower is not only a feast for the eyes; scientists have discovered that it has the remarkable ability to regulate its temperature to a constant degree irrespective of external temperatures. Physiologists Roger S Seymour and Paul Schultze-Motel from the University of Adelaide, Australia, found that the lotus flowers in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens maintained a temperature between 30-35 c , even when the air temperature dropped to 10 c .

One reason for this, speculate the scientists, is to allow cold-blooded insects a more conducive environment for polination. The lotus flower generates a lot of energy, producing nearly one watt usually during nights when the air begins cooling the petals. As day approaches, heat production reduces with the sun taking over, thereby, maintaining the heat in the flower.

Only two other plant species have been found to regulate their temperatures -- the skunk cabbage and a philodendron known as the elephant ear. Both these species belong to the arum-lily family.

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