Speaking of social networks, there’s this really awesome thing that dipterocarps do in a sort of dipto baby boom: it’s called mast flowering. Every so often, all the dipterocarp trees in a forest canopy will flower together.
Why do they do it?
Well, these mast flowering events typically take place after a prolonged drought, such as an El Niño event. Deprived of water, the trees are in considerable distress, so they need to put their heads together to figure out a way to survive.
Recall your high school biology: what happens when a plant flowers? Who comes to the plant?
That’s right, pollinators.
And what is produced after pollination?
That’s right, seeds.
And what are seeds?
Now obviously, the more flowers, the more pollinators are attracted, the more pollination takes place and the more seeds are produced.
And what happens at the end of a drought? Rain! Having produced a whole bunch of seedlings, the trees are ready to take advantage of the rain. Rainfall or water provides the catalyst for the healthy germination of seedlings.
Meanwhile, as a result of the drought, the dipterocarps have lost a considerable amount of leaves, allowing a whole lot of light to stream through to the forest floor, where all the little seedlings are lying in wait.
And you know what’s really weird? The dipterocarps don’t all flower at exactly the same time— there’s a bit of sequencing going on. This way, they are not competing with each other for pollinators but co-ordinating instead.
There’s something else going one here with the mast flowering, by the way. It’s called predator satiation. Dipterocarp seeds are fat little parcels of nutrition. Because so many seeds are produced at the same time, their predators get full pretty quickly. Once they’re satisfied, they are not going to eat any more. And all the other thousands of seeds that they don’t eat now get a shot at growing into a tree.