Pines

Pines use wind to spread their genes.

Plants reproduce through many different means, and all of them are interesting. They have spent millennia figuring out how to do the deed without having to swim, hop, crawl, or walk.

Read along to discover four strategies of these masters of manipulation.

1. Self-Pollination

Some plants will actually pollinate themselves. A few orchids and legumes will grow flowers on which their male and female parts are very close together or touching. Pollen, the male gamete, falls into the female ovule. And just like that, a peanut is born.

Self-pollination allows for plants to exist in places where pollinators cannot survive – places like the Arctic or deserts. These plants commit very little energy into reproduction because very little pollen must be produced. Not so for the next few plants on our list.

2. Insects

Why is there such an enormous diversity of beautiful wildflowers in the High Country? Plants and their pollinators have co-evolved in the spirit of mutualism.

What do the pollinators want? Food by way of nectar or pollen. What do the plants want? To reproduce!

Beetles are attracted to flowers that have a sweet, putrid smell and are dull-colored. Bees and butterflies fly to pink, blue, and orange flowers. With each visit, they carry pollen from flower to flower and plant to plant.

3. Birds

Bird pollination takes pollination to the next level. Red, non-smelling flowers like oswego tea and fire pink are meant to be pollinated by our ruby-throated hummingbird. They attract the birds by producing abundant nectar – enough to meet the high energy demand of hummingbirds.

In turn, the birds can carry their pollen to other individuals that are miles away. This leads to genetic variance and species diversity.

4. Wind

And finally, the culprit of our asthmatic wheezes. Many plants, mainly trees at this time of year, have evolved to a high level of evasiveness. Rather than depending on a species of bee or bird, they merely release their pollen into the wind.

Unfortunately for us, the wind lacks the exactitude of the hummingbird, and so for the plant to be successful it must release a lot of pollen. Most of which is looking for love in all the wrong places – on our cars in in our sinuses.

If you have a question concerning flora and fauna, please email dearnaturalist@gmail.com. All of your questions will be answered. One or two will be featured next week. See you on the trails!

Amy Renfranz is a Certified Naturalist through the Yellowstone Association Institute and a Certified Environmental Educator in the state of North Carolina. She is the Director of Education and Natural Resource Management for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.

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