Tag Archives: pollen


7 Apr

Depending on who you ask, the color orange brings to mind many things: amusement, danger, encouragement, energy, enjoyment, enthusiasm, extroversion, fascination, fire, happiness, heat, sunshine, and warmth.

It is one of my favorite colors, because it is so cheery (and because it goes so well with blue, its complementary color). I particularly like that it is associated with joy and creativity, and I love this description: “Orange oozes with delight.”

Interestingly, people did not have a good way to describe the color at first, sometimes calling it (in English) “yellow-red” or “saffron.” It wasn’t until oranges made their way around the world from their native Southeast Himalayan foothills that the color began to be associated with the ripe fruit. The first recorded use of orange as a color name in English was in 1512.

This week’s color, orange, appears on the six stamens of an Asiatic Lily ‘Tiny Sensation.’ The stamens are the male reproductive organs of flowers, consisting of anthers coated in pollen resting atop slim filaments. The female part of the flower, the pistil, can be seen rising blurrily in the back. Though not visible in the photo, the top part (the stigma) has three lobes and is sticky, to better catch the pollen.

Here is a better view of the pistil and its three-lobed stigma, surrounded by the six stamens. This photo is from a different lily, but luckily the pollen here is also orange, fitting in with this week’s theme.

Pollination occurs when bees, butterflies, and other pollinators carry the pollen from the lily’s anthers to the female parts of other lilies. Successful sexual reproduction leads to seeds that ripen in pods and are dispersed when the pods start to open in the fall. Unfortunately, I do not have any good photos of lily seed pods (though will now be on the lookout this fall), but did stumble upon iris seeds one autumn, as described here.

And of course, as lilies come from bulbs, another great way to get more lilies is via bulb division.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring

3 May

When I think of Spring, I think of flowers and new life.  This Tulipa “Ballerina” is one the the earliest and cheeriest flowers in my garden, and a look inside the tulip reveals some essentials about plant reproduction.

This close-up focuses on the three-lobed stigma (the top-most section of the tulip’s female reproductive parts, known collectively as the pistil), which catches pollen via its sticky and fuzzy surface. The pollen then travels down the tube-like style to the ovary where  fertilization takes place (if the pollen came from a tulip plant), ultimately leading to the production of seeds. The six pollen-covered anthers (the top-most parts of the male reproductive organs, known collectively as the stamens) are blurred in the background; the stamens emanate from the base of the pistil.

Tulips are considered “perfect” flowers because they contain both male and female reproductive organs. They can self pollinate, but can also cross pollinate in the wild with the help of bees and other pollinators. Alas, most commercial tulips, including this one, are sterile hybrids. But the good thing is that tulips also reproduce via their bulbs, which allows gardeners to enjoy them anew each spring.

A Master Pollinator in Action

4 Sep

The phrase “busy as a bee” came about for a reason. Bees never seem to stop. And we are all better off because of their tireless search for nectar, which makes them prime pollinators. This weekend, I watched one bee as it attempted to get into each flower on our two, tall Rose of Sharon plants. That’s a lot of flowers to visit. But according to my trusty Botany for Gardeners, a bee’s habit of flying back and forth between flowers of the same species is what leads to successful pollination. That, and a few incentives. First, there’s the nectar, usually found at the base of a flower — meaning the bee has to brush past the flower’s reproductive organs to reach the jackpot. Then, to make it easier for the bee (or any other pollinator) to get to the nectar, many flowers have nectar guides–markings that say “this way to the good stuff.” Those guides can be stripes, patterns, dots, or heightened color, etc.

In the photos below, a bee is lured inside a Rose of Sharon flower by the darker red stripes on each petal and the darker red inner circle that forms when all the petals come together at the base of the flower. The bee is already carrying pollen from the other Rose of Sharon flowers it has visited. It then burrows down to the base of the flower to reach the nectar — and in the process drops off some of the pollen it is carrying and picks up a bit more. Then, it heads up and out — off to pollinate the next flower.

Zucchini Flowers, Leaves, and Bees

3 Jul

Yes, it’s that time of year, a time when you realize you planted way too much zucchini. I have only one zucchini plant in the garden (not having much space for vegetables to begin with) — yet I find myself asking, how can one plant produce that much? And it’s barely gotten started.

Luckily, I love zucchini and am already thinking about what to do with my harvest. However, this post is not about cooking. It is about the plant itself, from flower to leaf. If you grow zucchini, you probably quite enjoy seeing the zucchini flowers/blossoms/blooms. I usually look at them and imagine them stuffed with a nice cheese, dipped in a light batter, and gently fried….heavenly! Some say the male flowers (which grow at the end of long stems, unlike female flowers, which grow at the end of the emerging zucchini) are the best for eating; I’ll happily sample either one. The flowers can also be eaten raw, sliced into salads or other dishes.

But I digress. My intention was to write about the plant–as a plant, not as a source of food. A couple of days ago, I was checking the status of the zucchini and was startled to see a fully open flower. I almost never see an open flower, which makes sense since they are only open for one day and usually from morning to early afternoon (when I am at work, or not paying sufficient attention). In order for any zucchini to be produced, bees must take advantage of this small window of opportunity and do their part by carrying pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers. [Ok, I have to digress again to show a completely unrelated photo of a friend’s beehive since I don’t have a photo of a bee on my zucchini flowers–and yes, honey bees are excellent pollinators of zucchini and many other fruits and vegetables. Go bees!]

Some of my baby zucchini seemed to wither on the stems and drop off before they even got going. I wondered if this was due to all the rain we’ve been having (or even worse, if it could possibly be the fault of our male dog–despite the barricades I erected). Luckily, I discovered it’s because the female flower didn’t get quite enough pollen from the male. Gardeners wishing to help the process along can try to hand pollinate by carefully removing the anther from the male flower and dabbing it onto the stigma of the open female flower (or by using cotton swabs to transfer the pollen). In my case, with plenty of zucchini already harvested and more to come, I may need to start tying all those flowers closed!

Here is a photo of a lovely, open zucchini flower (looks male)…

… and of another part of the plant that rarely gets mentioned: the leaf. I really like the way the leaves look, and I particularly like the downward angle in this photo. But zucchini leaves are a force of nature. They are so big and so prolific that they keep taking over the small space I allocated to the zucchini plant, and I have had to prune them several times. I felt guilty cutting them off at first, but then I learned that judicious pruning lets more light in and can help increase zucchini production. Wait–is that a plus?