Monday, May 24, 2010

Foxy Flowers - Foxgloves

My garden is full of dozens of foxglove that have seed themselves, leading to a wide range of colors-from creamy white to pink, rosy pink, and almost deep red.

Our eyes see delightful beauty in our gardens. People see all the colors of the rainbow; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Bees do not see red and can only distinguish between six colors:, blue-green, blue, violet, ultraviolet, and yellow. They can see a color called "bee's purple," a mixture of yellow and ultraviolet.

Some of the splendor in garden flower remains unseen. Each foxglove blossom has a different set of splotches all the way into its throat, like little runway guides leading to the sweet nectar. These are intriguing enough. But there’s more. A pollinating bumble bee see something beyond our vision. Bumble bees have a pair of six-sided, compound eyes and three simple eyes. Even with such complex eyes, their sight is accurate for only about three feet. A special light guides bumble bees on their lusty journeys for pure nectar. Bumble bees see ultraviolet light. A pattern of ultraviolet coloration lures a bumble bee into the foxglove flower’s throat. These patterns unseen by our eyes act like the signals of an airport’s landing strip. And the ultraviolet splotches of color don’t match the random splotches we see in the sunshine.

The earth’s protective atmosphere shields us from much of the sun’s ultraviolet light (radiation). Enough ultraviolet radiation filters through to aid bumble bees in their daily journeys. Even on a cloudy day, the bumble bees see the ultraviolet spectrum by cloud-penetrating ultraviolet light. What assists bumble bees on their quest for pollen and nectar can cause us to sunburn—part of the two-sided tapestry of life.

In each blossom the pollen is in the roof of the flower so the upper body of the bumble bee is brushed with the pollen as the bumble bee goes deeper into the blossom to seek out the sweet nectar (as seen here). After flying to another flower, the pollens are mixed and seed formation begins. The pollination process leads to plants with a mixture of colors. An isolated stand with creamy flowers will have cream colors until a seedling of a rose-colored blossom pops up nearby. Then things get interesting as different blends of color appear.


Let me know what you think. Visit my web site, www., to learn about my new book on drip irrigation and other gardening books. Thanks, Robert

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