Spring flowers

Finally last Friday (May 20) the long-awaited spring arrived in force. The most notable sign was the sudden presence of bright colours in the neighbourhood, in the form of spring flowers. Many people’s houses were suddenly surrounded by beds of purples, yellow, pinks and whites.

Spring flower gardens

Though these flowers certainly provide a beautiful scene when viewed from afar, they provide a whole other level of enjoyment when looked at closely.

Hedgenettle

When you get up close and personal with the flowers, you can see the intricate arrangement of both the shape of the petals and the colours on them.

Both the 3-D arrangement of the petals (as in the Hedgenettle (Stachys sp.)below) and the arrangement of colours on the petals (as in the following Phlox and Primrose (Primula vulgaris)) are important for pollination. All of these factors act as signposts directing the pollinator to the nectar and pollen rewards, which in turn results in pollen being transferred to the flower for seed production.

Phlox flowers

Primrose

Purple Rockcress

Unfortunately not many pollinators were out buzzing around. However, with a little patience watching this clump of Purple Rockcress (Aubrieta deltoides) I observed a small insect arrive at one of the flowers. It turned out to be a solitary bee from the family Halictidae (also known as sweat bees). It visited a few flowers, always landing near the centre and working its’ way around the anthers, before moving on to the next patch of flowers.

halictid bee pollinating Purple Rockcress

Red Currant

Not all spring flowers are as obvious or flamboyant in their advertising for pollinators, many are much more subtle and need to be searched for.

A good example of this is the red currant (Ribes rubrum). It has small pale green flowers in hanging spikes that are often hidden below the leaves.

The flowers are actually quite pretty, though some of them harbour a potential danger, when inspected more closely!

Red Currant and spiders

Spiders often use flowers as cover in order to stalk and prey upon pollinators that visit the flowers. So the free nectar buffet offered to a pollinator may suddenly become its’ last supper!

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One Response to Spring flowers

  1. Stan Barnett says:

    In a season rife with showy blossoms, there is no doubt that the Trilliums are some of springtime’s most flamboyant flowers. One of the approximately 9 trilliums of the Great Smokies. Following the fashion of the Lily Family, a grouping that is well known for its ostentatiousness. With its splash of pink and its crinkled edged petals have an inverted pink V at their base from which emanates noticeable pink veins. Three green sepals grow in a whorl immediately below the base. The painted Trillium may just be the most outstanding of its genus. Painted Trillium may be found on moist, shaped slopes from 3,000 to 6,500 feet in elevation along the trail of Alum Cave to Mt. LeConte, and Clingsman Dome from April to June.

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