Sunday, August 2, 2009

Passion Flower in Bloom

The passion flower is truly one of the showiest of all of the wildflowers. A break in the rain found the flowers of this climbing vine being worked heavily by honey bees as well as a number of different species of solitary bees. The honey bees climbed into the pale purple bloom and collected pollen while hanging upside down from the large exposed anthers. As the bees groom the abundant pollen from their hairy bodies, they brush some onto the sticky surface of the flower’s stigma. This transfer of pollen is a necessary step in the reproduction of the passion flower. After pollination, it produces its fruit, a lemon-sized berry called a maypop. Inside the maypop are seeds which are favored by songbirds, particularly bobwhite quail. The honey bee helps provide food for wildlife by pollinating plants.

The passion flower is an herbal remedy used to treat sleep disorders and to relieve pain. Its aerial foliage is collected for this herbal use. Passion flower is a native of the southern United States as well as Central and South America. Click on the photo to see one honey bee grooming pollen onto its honey baskets while two others arrive to forage. The honey bee on the left already has a partial load of pollen in its pollen baskets located on the hind legs. This beautiful plant clearly illustrates how flowering plants attract bees and as a result get reproduced.

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