10.18.2007

Jewelweed

I first came to love jewelweed as a kid at camp. Also known as "touch-me-not," the pods of this lovely, commonplace plant "explode" when touched, posing an irresistible temptation to break the vivid commandment engendered in the plant's name.
Here's a seed and the spring-like mechanism that sends the seeds catapulting far and wide—a most ingenious and dramatic mechanism of seed dispersal.Even now—many years removed from being a kid at camp—I revel in the child-like pleasure of prodding fat jewelweed pods to make them burst.

The honeybees (and bumblebees, and hummingbirds) revel in the jewelweed, too, energetically working its blossoms from July through the end of August. This summer, their labors brought a bumper crop of popping pods disbursing the seeds far and wide.
The bee has to go pretty deep inside the fluted flower to reach the nectar spur.
When it does so, it rubs against the the cluster of stamens with white anthers that you can see here. This transfers pollen onto the bee's head and back. Ingeniously, the ovary is located just above the anthers, so as the bee moves from flower to flower to gather nectar, it transfers the pollen from one flower to the ovaries of another.Here's what the bee looks like when it's working the jewelweed. It took me a few weeks to figure this out. At the hives, I'd see bees coming in with these white stripes on their backs. I didn't realize it was pollen—I figured my queen had mated with some odd-looking drones.
Here are some shots of the bees combing the pollen off their heads and backs, and transferring it to their pollen baskets. Note the wonderful variations in the blossoms' color and patterns.
Jewelweed is, by the way, a native plant, possessing some pretty interesting properties, including great-tasting seeds.

1 comment:

Mara said...

Hi, Gerry. How are you? I send this link that is an article about a woman that is specialist in the bees world (it's in spanish, but maybe you can translate it).

http://www.larazon.es/contra.htm

Hope your come back to BKLYN is okay.
Say hello to Sencha. And, of course, to Lauren.

Take care
Thais

PD. We miss the Catskills!