Dr Abdelaziz carried out the research by recording time-lapse videos of Erysimum incanum, a variety of wallflower from the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa, and evaluating anther rubbing on a different group of plants.
Seeds from the self-fertilisation grew into healthy plants, which produced just as many seeds as plants that were hand-fertilised with pollen from other plants, the study found.
Dr Abdelaziz added: “Anther rubbing represents the first time that a coordinated and repeated movement in flowers has been described. This movement allows the plants to reach their maximum reproductive output without the need for pollinators and cross-fertilisation.
“Previously, self-reproduction was considered as an accidental event, however, this work demonstrates that it could be adaptive – and adaptive traits promoting it can be developed in plants.
“With the loss of pollinators worldwide, any plant trait that promotes reproduction is important. For humans, that could also be important when considering the plants used in our industries and diet.”
The paper, Anther Rubbing, a New Mechanism That Actively Promotes Selfing in Plants, is published in The American Naturalist.