Sunday, May 31, 2009

Native Dogwoods in Bloom

We are attracted to flowering plants by the same things that attract honey bees to them. We see the color of the blossoms and their shape. The honey bees pay particular attention to the interruptions in the pattern of the petals. We smell the fragrance of the flowers. The honey bee’s antennae can sense the faintest of odors. They can detect the smell of flowers even when flying over the plants. The bees can discriminate between different nectars offered to them by scout bees. This attraction of the honey bees has the result of accomplishing pollination of the flowering plant. The honey bee is rewarded for its work in pollinating the plant by receiving a small ration of pollen or nectar. Thus, the flowering plants and the bees share a most important beneficial relationship. Click on the picture and you can see a honey bee approaching a native dogwood. In preparation for collecting nectar, the bee’s tongue, or proboscis, can be seen being brought forward from the area where it normally rests under the head.

Native dogwoods are in bloom in the woodlots thinly scattered across the Arkansas Delta. These low trees of the hardwood understory have tiny flowers unlike those of the well-known flowering dogwoods. The native dogwoods are quite fragrant and attract honey bees as well as a number of native pollinators. I think that the dogwoods smell soapy; Rita says they smell like a bouquet of flowers. After the dogwoods are pollinated by the bees, they produce their fruit, a berry. The berries are eaten by numerous birds which scatter the seeds. Deer browse the dogwood, a favored food, clearing the ground for the growth of wildflowers and more dogwoods. The honey bee is a partner in a number of beneficial relationships.

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