April showers really do bring May flowers. The early blooming flowers have come and gone. The spring ephemerals of March and April have taken advantage of the leafless trees and lack of competition from pollinators. May brings a new approach. The plants flaunt their nectar with colors, smells and profuse sprays of blooms. Competition is high and each species attracts their own target group of pollinators.
I have four apple trees on my property. We canned 14 quarts of apple pie filling, apple-sauce, and apple butter last year. It is difficult to believe that those apples all start with a single pollen and ovum coming together. This flower will be a ripe apple in just a couple of months.
I have had the most difficulty in identifying the cultivated varieties of plant. I am much more comfortable with the wildflowers and trees that have limited variation. Through the process of artificial selection, humans have taken that variation and contorted and modified the wild stock to create flowers that may look very different than their wild ancestors. Just as a chihuahua looks nothing like its wild wolf ancestors domestic flowers have been altered in shape and size. Above there is an ajuga, crab apple, and stilbe.
Here is one flower that I look forward to seeing every spring. The Jack-in-the-Pulpit is named for the flower’s stamen hidden beneath leafy pulpit. This unusual shape facilitates pollination.
Lilacs are a springtime favorite for their color and fragrant scent. Lilacs illustrate a multifaceted approach toward pollination. The color and scent are the obvious attractants the third is a multitude of flowers. Looking closely at the lilac it is composed of dozens of smaller flowers next to each other. This approach increases the chances of at least one flower achieving pollination by minimizing effort on behalf of the pollinator. Instead of trying to find each flower individually the pollinator has to find one group and set up shop.
Flower shape is directly related to pollinator needs. In this case, the plant creates a landing pad for the pollinator with an elongated petal leading to a nectar reward after passing through the pollen.
The dogwood above is another example of a compound flower with the bloom composed of many smaller flowers. In the picture above the effectiveness of the approach is illustrated as a flower beetle is clearly visible and covered in pollen!
Although not edible for human consumption the crab apple trees in my yard are an invaluable source of energy for many migrating and resident birds in the fall and winter. These flowers will bear fruits that will ultimately drive the migration of a bird hundreds of miles. The energy of the sun converted in the feathers and wind driving south.
Of all the cultivated flowers in my yard the many varieties of iris still maintain the relative shape of their wild counterparts.
The pink and white lady slipper is the official state flower of Minnesota. This yellow lady slipper is a close relative. This year the plant had 28 delicate flowers. Lady slippers are members of the orchid family with a very different shape and approach toward pollination than other flowers.
A weed is simply defined as a plant where you don’t want it. Many plants we consider weeds today have had a much more accepted past. Lily of the Valley is socially defined as a desirable flower but anyone who has had a garden with it knows it can be anything but desirable. Lily of the Valley spreads like wildfire and is nearly impossible to remove. It spreads through roots and shoots up new growth as prolific as ground ivy, a common weed. For now, the Lily of the Valley has a stay of execution in a couple spots in my yard.
Up Next: More May Flowers! OR Insect Sex!