pollen grain drawing on the right from Dorothy Hodges’ book, Pollen Loads of the Honey bee.
Flowering now is Ribes sanguineum. Its tiny, delicately fragrant flowers form a small drooping cluster of blossoms with intensely rose-colored oval buds at the tips. The 5 exterior petals (sepals?) of each blossom sport vivid tonalities of carmine/magenta/pink, and the interior corolla has 5 astounding, white, paddle-shaped petals that together with the stamens form a little circle around the single pale green pistil. The stamens have their backs right up against the spaces between the little petals, and they give the impression that their job is to hold up those floral walls.
This little structure is absolutely amazing on its own, but there’s another really cool feature of this plant–there are miniscule glandular hairs on the outside of the receptacle and the red petals.They look like miniature transparent, pink-tinged thumb tacks. They taste a bit sweet. Well, I think they do, but I could be wrong.
Flowering current offers both pollen and nectar to early native bees, and it is also a favorite of hummingbirds, thus it is an important plant in the pollinator food repertoire.
The petals of this flower have the most extraordinary coloring. Really, Scilla siberica out does herself in terms of beauty. I know that early queen bumblebees and honey bees will collect this pollen, but Scilla is too early for most other native bee species. Well, she’s not a native, so I guess that is why?
Blooming now is Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis). It is one of the first native species to flower in spring, and according to one authority (USDA/NRCS Plant Fact Sheet), its flowering coincides with the arrival of the Rufous hummingbird to our northern regions. It is also an early season nectar source for moths, butterflies and native bees. To the native bee claim, I can attest to — I was thrilled to see 3 bumblebee queens recently, but was not swift enough to photograph them in focus. Lots of great (read: non-usable) very blurry shots though!
Cool thing about Indian Plum is that there are male trees (left image) and female trees (right). Apparently this sexual divide can vary, and at times, there can be trees with both male and female flowers on it. (So, is this tree evolving towards or away from insect pollination?)
The male flowers have 15 stamens that produce lovely gold slightly-greenish pollen. The male plant has rather a weird odor to it – one writer suggested the descriptor: ” much like cat urine” (Radical Botany). The female plant, whose white flowers are slightly smaller than the male blossoms, produces little bitter fruits that are eaten by birds and other animals. A fresh cucumber or watermelon-rind like fragrance emanates from the female plant.
This was a super plant to explore – lots of fun peering into tiny blossoms and sniffing for alleged tell-tale scents of girl and boy trees!
One of the earliest sources of pollen for honeybees comes from hazel trees. Hazel produces copious quantities of yellow pollen from its male catkins. The powdery shower is a delight to observe, but of course, not so delightful for those suffering from allergies.
The tree has both male and female flowers on each branch. The tiny crimson flowers (no petals, just red styles) burst out of buds and await the wind-carried cloud of pollen to reach them from another tree. Since the tree is wind-pollinated, it does not have to invest in showy flowers like insect pollinated plants do.