- Planet Possible
This in-demand plant is evolving to hide from its predator—humans
The small herb, once easily spotted by its vibrant flower and leaves, is growing brown and gray in spots where humans often pluck them.
In southwest China, high in the Hengduan Mountains, a small herb is getting harder to find.
Called Fritillaria delavayi, it grows three to five bright green leaves and a short stem; once a year, it produces a bright, tulip-shaped, yellow-hued flower. But that eye-catching yellow flower and those vibrant green leaves have started to grow gray and brown in this Fritillaria species. Scientists suspect the plant is genetically evolving drabber parts to hide from its main predator—humans.
In a study published in the journal Current Biology, scientists from China and the U.K. found that in areas where Fritillaria delavayi was being harvested at high rates, the herb was more likely to camouflage.
While some plant species grow smaller when overharvested—because their