Sunday, January 10, 2010

The First Flower

I found the first flower of the year this morning when I went out to feed and water our domestic fowl. Each morning I have been finding their water bowls frozen solid. The lakes are covered with a thick layer of ice. The temperature this morning was seven degrees Fahrenheit, and it has been well below freezing for more than a week. Still, a dandelion broke from the hard, frozen, snow-crusted ground and proclaimed, “It’s time to bloom!” I was delighted to see some bright yellow, the first color of the year; and I was not surprised that this first flower was a dandelion. It seems that dandelion is always the first flower to bloom in January and the last to bloom in December. This hearty composite wildflower can be found in bloom during any month. Dandelion survives with a deep tap root and flowers that produce abundant wind-blown seeds. Of course, there were no bees flying today. In the hives, they’re huddled tightly in their winter cluster, consuming stored honey to generate heat.

The dandelion is a member of the important bee plant family, the composites. The composite or sunflower family is one of the largest families of flowering plants. Comprising about 10 percent of all flowering plants, many of the composites are abundant producers of nectar and pollen. The dandelion is one of the most dependable food sources for honey bees. Hearty and abundant, it blooms at times when nothing else does. We can almost count on the honey bees being able to find some dandelion nectar and pollen on the first day that temperatures climb enough for the bees to fly. In the early months of the year, honey bees often forage for dandelion pollen. As this protein source is brought into the hive, the queen bee is stimulated to begin brood production. On the bee farm and many areas of the world, the dandelion is appreciated as a colorful wildflower, welcomed in lawns and open spaces.

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