One of the first little flowers to bloom in the spring is the delicate snowy-white galanthus nivalus, appropriately called, “snowdrop.”
You can see the bright yellow-orange pollen dusting the inner surface of the petals in this close-up. Peter Lindtner, in his book, Garden Plants for Honey Bees (2014), ranks the snowdrop as a good source of pollen (3 stars out of 5), and a fair source of nectar (2 stars). Haven’t seen any bees yet at my little clumps of galanthus, but then I’m not standing guard all the time.
Galanthus has medicinal uses (according to the Kew Botanical Gardens website) One of the chemicals it contains is called galantamine, and it’s used to treat moderate memory impairments. Apparently snowdrops and their bulbs are poisonous to humans and can cause gastrointestinal problems if eaten in quantity. Well, I will leave the pollen to the bees and the bulbs to the squirrels. They made short work of my bulbs last fall. Basically they waited until I had finished planting and then gleefully dug them up again.
My interpretation of the snowdrop and its pollen:
24″ x 36″. Graphite and encaustic on mylar. I am using Dorothy Hodges’ pollen load color swatch for snowdrops (Pollen Loads of the Honeybee). As she has only one color recorded, I also added the pollen color in Kirk’s book (A Colour Guide to Pollen Loads of the Honeybee, IBRA, 2006), and I am using my own approximation of the anther colors from the snowdrops I collected in my garden.
Close-up of the encaustic work on Galanthus nivalus.
A visit to the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens recently proved to be a real treat–my first honeybee sighting of 2015! The intrepid bees ventured out between downpours in search of nectar and pollen. This busy little worker was in the process of loading light yellow pollen onto her hind legs from a hybrid honeysuckle bush (lonicera purpursii).
In a different part of the Gardens, the scent of Sweet Box (Sarcococca) blossoms was intoxicating. Thought there’d be lots of bees there, but the skies darkened, the air became chilly as the sun disappeared behind the dense grey clouds. No bees, sadly.
I photographed my own Sarcococca ruscifolia plant, a small one, at home. No consolation for the disappointment at the Gardens, but a useful reference and resource for drawing, nontheless. Here’s a close-up of the male flowers spilling creamy pollen over the leaves.
The tiny amount of pollen provided me with the impetus to record this anther pollen color in a drawing, as part of my self-appointed work to explore and learn more about the plants that bees love. Dorothy Hodges (Pollen Loads of the Honeybee) lists 20 very early blooming plants and trees, but Sarcococca is not part of her record. So, although I could not use Hodges as a guide here, I started the pollen work with the Sarcococca.
Detail of pollen drawing in encaustic
Sarcococca ruscifolia 24″x 36″ graphite, soft pastel, encaustic on mylar
Between the downpours of rain, it’s wonderful to discover what February brings to light.
Along the roadside near our house, leafless trees reach out among the evergreens. I found several hazel trees there and brought home a small branch to examine more closely. To my delight, the male catkins opened a few days later and spilled out their lovely golden yellow pollen. The female flowers of the tree contain tiny, bright red stigmas which peek out from their bud-like ovary–no petals. Hazel, Corylus avellana, is on the early spring list in Dorothy Hodges book, The Pollen Loads of the Honeybee. I’m still obsessed with Hodges’ book and her work and continue to explore and learn more about the plants and the pollen she’s included in this amazing work.
My neighbors have a curly hazel in their yard, a Corylus avellana contorta, also known as Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick. The wonderful red female flowers are clearly visible here, along with the male catkins, still wet with raindrops.