Notes from the field: finding Lapeirousia pyramidalis

Color variability in a population of Lapeirousia pyramidalis subsp. regalis

The reason of my field trip to the Cape was to study Lapeirousia pyramidalis. This plant species occurs in two subspecies: subspecies regalis, with mostly purple flowers, is distributed within a 80-km-long, ~1-km-wide stretch of the succulent Karoo region, along the Olifants river and West of the Cederberg; subspecies pyramidalis has mostly white-pink, scented flowers and is widespread in the Karoo East of the Cederberg. The two subspecies differ also by their pollinators: long-tongued flies for subsp. regalis and moths for subsp. pyramidalis. Continue reading

Notes from the field: the Namaqualand connection

I came to South Africa to study how the ecological interactions between plants and pollinators affect their evolution. My research questions are not tightly linked to specific species, but they aim at assessing the generality of certain eco-evolutionary patterns. To this goal, I am focusing on a heterogeneous group of plants distributed all across South Africa, characterized by long-tubed flowers that are visited by insects with adequately long tongues and proboscis. Continue reading

Plant-Pollinator Porn

Here is a selection of pictures by Christian Ziegler, naturalist and photojournalist for National Geographic. They depict animal-flower interactions in general, not only pollination events. And porn is in the eyes of the viewer, as well as in the eye of the maker. But Plant-Pollinator Porn makes a better acronym, so I’ll stick to that.

Today, I will post about orchids and their pollination. The orchid family is the largest plant family with some 28000 to 32000 species, and all species have highly specialized pollinators. In some cases it is a bees (as seen here in Panama), in other cases birds, beetles, ants, flies and so on… but they all depend on these highly specialized interactions to guarantee pollination and future reproduction. These pictures are taken from my book ‘Deceptive Beauties: The World of Wild Orchids’ @thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative #Wpph16 My name is Christian Ziegler (@christianziegler) – I am a photojournalist for National Geographic. I’m taking over World Press Photo for the next 5 days, during which I will share my favorite images from different stories. I hope to amaze you with the beauty and diversity of the natural world, and to inspire people to care about conservation.

A photo posted by World Press Photo Foundation (@worldpressphoto) on

Continue reading

PhD defense!

Public Service Announcement: the coming monday (September 7th) I am defending my PhD thesis “Effects of temperature on the population dynamics, biotic interactions, and diversity of freshwater protists”. The talk starts at 15:00 in room Y34-J-01, Irchel campus, Zurich. More importantly, the apero starts at 17:00 at the greenhouse! See you there! plebani-defense-flyer[get pdf]