I have an assignment due today for a class that I am taking through Miami University called “Pollinator Biology”, and I’m a little stuck because my plans have been foiled by a blizzard and illness, as in, I’m too sick to go out, but it doesn’t really matter anyway because there are six more inches of snow on top of the already existing three feet on the ground. I wanted to drive down to Sioux Falls to the Sertoma Butterfly House to shoot some photos of butterflies and moths using their unique adaptations to feed and transfer pollen. Maybe next time.
Instead, I bought some fresh flowers from the grocery store and dissected them to take a closer look at how they are each set up by evolution to function. Here are the tools of the Conservation Biologist for today’s experiment:
On the left is the Gogo Robots Macro Lens clip on, to attach to my iPad, and on the right is my Calphlon filleting knife from my kitchen.
Here are my specimens:
We have a daisy, a lily, a rose, and what we’ll call #4 because I don’t know its name.
Let’s take a look at each one.
#1 – the Daisy
All of my flowers came from a store, so I do not know the history of their development like I would a flower from my own garden. Daisies would normally be pollinated by bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other incidental animals. You can see here that my daisy sample seems to be missing its anthers and filaments (male parts), and we are left with just the female parts – the stigma and ovary. Interestingly, daisies are not singular flowers. Instead, the center disk is made up of hundreds of tiny flowers, similar to a sunflower.
#2 – the Lily
Lilies are great to observe because they are complete – you can see the male (androcium) and female (gynoecium) parts very clearly. Having both sex parts, or being hermaphrodites, enable lilies to self-pollinate. They don’t necessarily need insects and other animals to transfer pollen from one plant to another, although this kind of cross-pollination can also occur. You can see some of the pollen grains still attached to the anthers. Pollen grains contain the plant’s male sex cells, or gametes.
#3 – the Rose
This particular rose was grown in a greenhouse somewhere, probably far, far away from South Dakota where I bought it. Rose are unusual in that they are actually woody plants that can be cut and bread plants propagated from these cuttings. They can be cross-pollinated via wind, birds, and insects. Bees and butterflies are common pollinators, but many beetle species also like to hang out in roses, transferring some pollen from one flower to another as the pollen sticks to their bodies. Bees are most effective at pollinating roses, Their hairy bodies make for a perfect pollen collector as the pollen sticks to the bees legs and other parts. Interesting fact – roses do not actually have thorns! Real thorns are extensions of the stem material, so roses actually have prickles.
$4 – This guy
I sent photos of this flower to my Master Gardener friend and she didn’t know what it was either. She tends to focus on native plants in her work, and this one isn’t a native flower. In fact, none of these flowers come from native plants in South Dakota. They have all been grown in greenhouses to protect them from insects and diseases so they looked perfect when I picked them up this weekend.
#4 grew as a singular flower but there were a number of flowers on each stem. The surrounding petal was all one solid piece. #4 is beautiful in its radial symmetry, or actinomorphis. I think you can see its parts most clearly of all of the flowers I cut open. Look at the last photo that I labeled. Both male and female parts are all laid out there for us to see, and there is still pollen attached to the style.
Unfortunately, I can’t really tell you more about each flower’s pollination syndrome (the collective traits of flowers, like shape, size, color, scent, etc. and for these traits attract specific pollinators with matching adaptations) or pollination ecology (seeing how pollen is transferred by watching the interactions of pollinators and flowers, which is what I had hoped to do at the Sertoma Butterfly House) because I am not looking at these plants in their natural habitats.
Emily, Doer of Stuff
Mader, E., Shepherd, M., Vaughan, M., Hoffman Black, S., LeBuhn, G. (2011) Attracting native pollinators: protecting North America’s bees and butterflies: the Xerxes Society guide. Storey Publishers, North America, MA.
Shivanna, K.R., Tandon, R. (2014) Chapter 7, Pollination ecology. In Reproductive ecology of flowering plants: A manual (pp. 63-96). Springer India, Bangladesh, India.