Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
First Flower

Pick the Pollinator Answers

Fuchsia
Enlarge this image

Hummingbird



 

Hardy fuchsia: hummingbird
The hardy fuchsia is adapted for hummingbird pollination in a variety of ways. The bird is drawn to its red sepals, and the positioning of its pendulous flowers allows the bird, which can consume more than its body weight in food each day, to hover easily in place while drinking the flowers' ample nectar. Pollen rubs off onto the bird's head as it feeds and is thereby transported from flower to flower.

Goldenrod
Enlarge this image

Honeybee



 

Canada goldenrod: western honeybee
The honeybee is one of the goldenrod's best customers, collecting its pollen for protein and its nectar in order to produce honey (a sweet treat that doubles as an antibacterial agent). The goldenrod's flowers have adapted through time to attract pollinators both visually and through food offerings, hence their bright yellow petals and abundant pollen and nectar supplies. The goldenrod's pollen sticks to the bee's body, moving with it from flower to flower and leading to pollination.

Comet Orchid
Enlarge this image

Moth



 

Comet orchid: Morgan's sphinx moth
When Charles Darwin studied this orchid and its 10-to-12-inch nectar tube in the 19th century, he theorized that somewhere in the flower's native Madagascar must exist a pollinator that has evolved a proboscis of similar length. And, indeed, several decades after Darwin's death researchers discovered this rare species of the Morgan's sphinx moth with its exceptionally long proboscis.

Violet
Enlarge this image

Violet



 

Common blue violet: common blue violet
The common blue violet will sometimes form tiny, inconspicuous flowers that look simply like buds that haven't bloomed. These flowers are being pollinated, but through self-pollination! The pollen travels from the stamen down into the flower's own ovary. In the instances at left, the violet flowers gain the benefits of genetic diversity via insect pollination as well as of being able to grow outside of insect pollinators' range via self-pollination. Note the seeds in the self-pollinating "bud."

Celery
Enlarge this image

Water



 

Wild celery: water
Wild celery grows in aquatic environments and has adapted over time to use water to its reproductive advantage. This species disperses little pollen "boats" that float around until they hit the stigmas on female flowers of other wild celery plants. (The stigma is the sticky section of a flower that receives pollen.)

Corpse Flower
Enlarge this image

Beetle



 

Sumatran corpse flower: carrion beetle
Carrion beetles as well as a variety of other carrion insects are so attracted to this odorous plant that they will crawl or fly inside in search of excrement or decomposing flesh. The spadix (the large object seen here protruding from the plant) is the source of the smell and is also covered in the plant's pollen, which the pollinators unknowingly carry to other plants of the species as they continue their search for food.

Baobab
Enlarge this image

Bat



 

African baobab: rousette fruit bat
Much like the hummingbird, the fruit bat prefers pendulous flowers so that it can fly in place while feeding. Because the nocturnal rousette fruit bat uses echolocation more than visual cues in finding flowers, these flowers had no need to evolve bright, colorful petals.

Interactives

We recommend you visit the interactive version. The text to the left is provided for printing purposes.

First Flower Home | Send Feedback | Image Credits | Support NOVA

© | Created March 2007


Support provided by

For new content
visit the redesigned
NOVA site