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Monday, May 4, 2015

Time for Flowers! by Rose Anderson

As the song goes, spring is bustin' out all over and that's certainly true in my neck of the woods. The shades of green in the springtime defy description. Add to this an assortment of cheery birdsong and colorful spring blooms. Just lovely. 

I live in a rural area and in all the years we've lived here, we've rescued plants. Our yard is filled with neglected flowers from abandoned old farmsteads, mostly hostas and bulbs such as daffodils, day lilies, and lily of the valley. Many times this rescuing takes place in the shadow of the bulldozer so needless to say, we have lots of grateful blooms.

We don't have vegetable gardens anymore (too many deer) but when mood strikes we'll put in the odd tomato or parsley. This year we plan to plant more herbs and we've already put in morning glories. I'm looking forward to watching the morning glories out my kitchen window. If you hadn't noticed, flowers have behaviors that are worth watching.

Flowers exist for one main purpose and that is to pass on their genes through whatever crafty
behavior they can come up with. For example closed bottle gentians have a bloom so tight it forces bumblebees to pry open the flowers. They're the only pollinator strong enough to do it and the bee's hairy body works just like a little bottle brush. The snapdragons in your flowerbeds need a heavy bumblebee to open the trap door to the nectar. Science calls this specific partnership coevolution-- species evolving together to the benefit of all.

Here's how crafty plants are:
Bees have a moderate sense of smell so plants mainly draw them in with color. Bee-pollinated

flowers are mostly yellow or blue because bees don't see red. They also have Ultraviolet landing patterns to guide the bee to the nectar.

Butterflies can see red but there's no need for flowers to have landing patterns for them. Butterflies go for bunches of flowers with space to perch their little feet. They also have a weak sense of smell.  

Moths have a strong sense of smell and most are nocturnal feeders. They don't need colorful blooms to lead them to nectar like bees and butterflies do. The flowers they go for are generally white or other pale color with petals folding outward and out of the way.

And that's just what plants do for bees, butterflies, and moths. Birds, bats, beetles, ants, flies, etc all deal with specific plant razzmatazz.

Plants do other things that are fascinating to observe. Take sunflowers for example. Sunflowers are heliotropic, meaning they track the sun's movement across the sky and all day long turn their face toward the sun. Another behavior is called nastic movement. This is the opening and closing of the bloom, something they do to improve their chance of successful pollination. The curious thing about nastic movement is plants are regular time keepers.
Some flowers respond to day length and open and close at different times of day depending on available sunlight. Some will open and close in response to weather such as humidity, temperature, or cloudy vs. sunny skies. Some open and close at the same time each day. Three that come to mind are evening primrose, the four-'o-clock, and morning glories. And this leads to a fun project!

The idea of a flower clock was conceived by Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus (the father of taxonomy). In his study of botany he noticed different plants opened and closed their flowers at certain times each day. His first flower clock was planted in1748
and had each hour marked by an opening or closing bloom. As you can imagine, it became quite the fashion. 

If you're going to plant flowers anyway, why not plant a clock garden or a single clump that opens at a specific time each day right outside your door or window. I'll be watching my morning glories with my eye on the clock.

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About Rose
Rose is a multi-published, award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and discovering interesting things to weave into stories. She lives with her family and small menagerie amid oak groves and prairie in the rolling glacial hills of the upper Midwest.

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Rose Gorham said...

I love Spring. Thanks for sharing.

Paris said...

Thanks for sharing all the lovely information! We spent a weekend planting a bee/butterfly/hummingbird garden a couple of weeks ago and I've already seen a honeybee. I'm looking forward to coffee by the garden this summer:).

jean hart stewart said...

Purely loved your blog!!! I love my garden and this give me a new insight to some of my plants. I have a small garden, but lots of birds at my feeders.....

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Very interesting information!
I like the idea of a flower clock.

PRM said...

Rose, love this post! I also live in a rural area and have beaucoup plants and flowers. Another flower that responds to the amount of light by opening and closing is portulaca. A hardy plant with lovely color variations. Mentioning how sunflowers track the sun reminded of the sunflower farms across Iowa and Kansas. What a gorgeous sight! And I learned something about moths - I didn't know they have a keen sense of smell. Thank your for all the insights today, Rose.

Sam Cheever said...

What a great post! Thanks for all the fascinating information. I'll never look at a moth or a sunflower the same again!

BTW, I've been noticing a lot of these cute, fat little bumblebees this year. I don't know what it is about them but they make me smile. #:0)

Rose Anderson said...

Thanks for stopping by everyone!

Janice Seagraves said...

Hi Rose,

Thank you for sharing some interesting facts about flowers.

Janice~ said...

Hi Rose, I live in the concrete jungle of Chicago but near Lincoln Park so I see lots of flower beds. It's always such a pleasure to see the early flowers every spring.

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