The Flowers Pollinated by Bats

Although people often find bats frightening, bats are responsible for the survival of many plants that depend on them for pollination. Most flowers pollinated by bats have certain traits in common. The night-blooming flowers are usually at least 1 inch in diameter and are light in color. The aroma of the blooms is fruity or musky, and the blooms have generous amounts of nectar to attract the hungry bats.

Organ Pipe Cactus

Bats are attracted to the musky odor and sweet nectar of the organ pipe cactus (Stenocereus thurberi). The bat pokes his head into the long, tubular bloom of the organ pipe cactus, licking the syrup found deep within the bloom. In the process, the bat's head is covered with pollen which is then transmitted to more organ pipe cacti as the bat flies from flower to flower. After the blooming season is over, the organ pipe will develop fruits, which are eaten by bats. As the bats defecate, the seeds land on the soil where more organ pipe plants germinate.

Macuna

The macuna is a woody vine commonly found in tropical rain forests around the world. As the vines wrap themselves around the trees in the forest, sweet-smelling flowers dangle within easy reach of night-flying bats. As the bats fly from plant to plant, they sip the nectar, pollinating each plant they visit.

South African Sausage Tree

The blood-red, night-blooming flowers of the South African sausage tree (Kigelia pinnata) hang below the dense foliage on ropelike structures, ensuring that the flowers are conveniently located within reach of bats. Bats are attracted by the sweet scent and nectar of the huge blooms, flying from flower to flower with the pollen on their tongues.

Agave

Bats are responsible for pollinating the agave plant (Agave americana).The long, bristly tongue of the bat is perfectly adapted to draw nectar from the flowers of the agave plant. The plant does its share to be helpful as well, as the pale yellow or white blooms can extend up to 20 feet in the air, within easy reach of the high-flying bats.

Keywords: pollinated by bats, bat pollination, bats pollinate flowers

About this Author

M.H. Dyer is a long-time writer, editor and proofreader. She has been a contributor to the East-Oregonian Newspaper and See Jane Run magazine, and is author of a memoir, “The Tumbleweed Chronicles, a Sideways Look at Life." She holds an Master of Fine Arts from National University, San Diego.