Skip to main content

                         Flower Flower Give Me Your Nectar


Ahh yes!  For many of us the winter months are a time for flu shots and watching movies.  Then the birds start singing their lilting tunes and the days become a little warmer and longer.   Creatures of the forest begin to emerge from their winter hiding spots and previously dormant plants wake up.  Humans wake, stretch and bask in the spring sunshine, and maybe, just maybe, catch a glimpse of the first flower of the year.  And Oh My! That little firework of color swimming amidst a sea of brown leaves always makes us so happy!  So, with spring in mind, let us talk about flowers!
                      The Dodecatheon jeffreyi or sierra shooting star  Photo: sierrawildflowers.org


Little Sierra Shooting Star, why are you so pretty?  The question may seem simple, but underneath are some complicated natural phenomenon, and it all starts with the birds and the bees.  Every living thing will die someday and, before it does, that living thing must reproduce in order for the species to continue.  For a plant rooted in place the task of finding a mate is particularly challenging.  With this in mind, plants have a secret up their sleeves, flowers!  These vibrant petals and tantalizing aromas attract animals who act as the plant’s legs, moving genetic material from one plant to the next.  You may think, “Whoa, plants are manipulating animals for their own benefit!” and it is true.  However…there’s more. Flowers also make jokes.  “What did the old flower say to the new flower?  What’s up bud!”

                                              The mariposa lily  Photo: sierrawildflowers.org

                                         
The animals that flowers attract are pollinators, and each plant is trying to attract a specific set of animals.  For this, the plants employ a number of different strategies.  Visual cues are probably the most striking.  Many flowers have a dark center spot, or target, to indicate their location in the environment and stand out amongst their surroundings.  Other plants attract pollinators who see in different sets of colors than humans.  A bee’s vision is in the ultra violet spectrum and consequently sees a flower completely differently than a human.  Cool!    



                  Silverweed:  Left is how humans see and right is how bees see.  Photo: Bjørn Rørslett

Smells also attract animal pollinators.  How a flower smells and when a flower smells affects what pollinators it will be visited by.  Flowers trying to attract bats and moths will release a majority of smelly compounds during the nighttime, while flowers attracting bees and butterflies will smell most strongly during the day.  Some flowers attract pollinating flies by smelling like rotting meat or dung.  Finally, there are flowers that pollinated by birds.  Since birds have a very poor sense of smell, these flowers are often odorless.  Next time you stop to smell a flower, see if you can tell what kind of pollinator the flower is trying to attract. 

                                           Mountain Misery  - photo credit: Andrew Massyn

Have you ever seen something that no one else did?  Perhaps a rogue snowflake, a deer scampering off, or a tiny flower peaking up through a crack in the pavement.  As we move throughout our busy lives there are many things vying for our attention, and often the little things go unnoticed.  These little things and the glimpses of the rare lessons to slow down, take a deep breath, and observe nature’s magic.  After several very dry years, California has had a healthy dose of rainfall.  Many plant seeds can wait several years underground for just the right conditions to sprout.  This year those conditions for flowers are ideal.  Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California is in a super-bloom right now with an abundance of flowers bursting from the ground.  With this in mind, it is time that we all get outside and enjoy some spring sunshine.  Strap some shoes to your feet, walk to a sunny spot and enjoy some flowery magic.   Happy spring! 


                                        Photo by Kirk Christ, Orange County Register/SCNG
 


 


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Wait, do bears really hibernate?! Waking up to the truth about winter's sleep

Imagine yourself going for a hike through the vast Emigrant Wilderness in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. You stop to look out over a field covered in the first light snowfall of the year. You’re captured by its beauty. One snowflake falls on your nose, then two, then more cover your hair. It’s mid-November. A crisp breeze rolls over the field and makes you shiver. What would you do next? Being a smart hiker, you probably brought a warm cozy jacket. Maybe it’s fleece, and if you’re experienced in the wilderness, it’s probably waterproof. Now imagine yourself on this same field of freshly fallen snow, but instead of two feet in wool socks and hiking boots, you now have four large paws covered in dark brown fur. Your five claws are sharp from climbing trees to reach nuts, berries, and seeds. Your fur has thickened in the recent months. The snow is falling gently, covering your snout and ears. That same crisp breeze rolls across the field… but you hardly feel it. That 350 pounds you put on…

Give Plants a Chance: Erosion and Giant Sequoias

What is Erosion? Erosion is the gradual degradation (breaking down) of rock and other natural material, by wind, water, gravity, and even animals. Erosion happens all around us on hillsides, the edges of riverbeds, beaches, and cliff walls. It is an entirely natural and necessary process; erosion is responsible for the dispersion and recycling of rocks and minerals into sediment, which enriches soil and provides opportunities for new life to emerge!

          However, human induced erosion is not natural, nor beneficial to our local environment. Scientists have estimated that global rates of erosion have increased 10-40 times its natural rate, due to human influence and activity. If you are looking for signs of human induced erosion, it is particularly obvious alongside walking trails in parks and forests.



Every year, our Sierra Outdoor School Naturalists take hundreds of of students on field trips to Calaveras Big Trees State Park, aptly named for the beautiful Giant Sequoia …

What's that you sing? It's Spring?!

It is that time of year! Noticeably, the days are beginning to warm and the sun is casting its light a little longer with each day. If you look and listen closely, you will notice pops of color from dormant flowers beginning to bloom, the birds have started singing, spring is here!
Image 1. Ruby Crowned Kinglet. Photo by Paul Higgins. 
After months of quiet skies, the Oregon juncos’ song will make your heart skip a beat. Many of the birds in our forest do not migrate, but their songs are silenced during the cold winter months.I like to believe they are saving up their vocal chord strength for their spring song, when the males are in full singing form to attract their mate! Since the Oregon junco does not leave our forest in the winter, they are the first species to declare that spring is near. When the days get longer, they know it is time to find a mate, so they open their throat and let their trilly-song come through, and each time I hear it, I cannot help but smile.
Image 2. Oregon …