Elephant Heads (the flowers, not the animals)

Yes, I know it is not wildflower season right now. However, I’m in the process of developing a book about the adaptations of alpine wildflowers with a publisher. One of featured flowers will be elephant heads. For starters, they are amazing. Look closely. Each tiny flower actually looks like a mini pink-purple elephant head.

I’ve also learned that these flowers are hemi-parasitic. That means this beautiful, delicate flower is a thief. Deep underground, elephant heads attach their roots to the roots of other plants to obtain some of their nutrients and water.

Yet the absolute best geek-out fact I learned is about how they pollinate. Look at the “trunk” of an elephant head flower. When an insect lands on this trunk, there’s a spring-like mechanism that causes the stamen to shoot out. In doing so, it slaps the insect with pollen. It’s brilliant! I’ll never look at an elephant head the same again.