Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spring Ephemerals Pollination

Usually the weather in the early spring is still too cold for most flying insects, and because of this, ants and small insects pollinate some of the Spring Ephemerals and disseminate their seeds. Certain species - such as bloodroots, trilliums, trout lilys, and violets - produce seeds that are coated by elaiosomes, which contain attractive oils and maybe sugars. Ants will take these elaiosome coated seeds into their colonies to feed their larvae. However they end up eating the coating and leaving the seed somewhere in their nest. This action not only protects the seeds from other insects , rodents or birds that would feed on them, but are they usually are left in areas that help promote germination. The ants have a great food source and the plant's seeds are hidden, planted, and germinated to bloom another year. This symbiotic relationship is called "Myrmecochory".
For Dutchman Breeches and Squirrel Corn, pollination usually takes place by bees. Bumblebees will force apart to sip the nectar with their long tongues. However most of the time, their cousins the honeybee will just bore a hole in the side of the flower to accomplish the same action.
As Rich has said with the weather turning warmer each day, there is more and more going on out in the woods. Take the time to explore and you will be amazed at what you see and learn!