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Flowers and their associated insect pollinators.

Updated on February 22, 2014


In my article {hub} ' The complex world of the relationship between flowers and insects' it looked at the reasons why flowers and insects rely on each other, and in many cases they have adapted their form and colouring to be of mutual benefit.

In this article I look at some specific species of plants and their associated insect pollinators. I start with a familiar family the Ranunculacea { buttercup family} which includes such species as Hellebore, Aconite, Anemone, Marsh marigold, Lesser Celandine and Pulsitilla.

Meadow buttercups with orchids and other wild flora


Ranunculus acris

Billeder of Norden's Flora 1917-1927
Billeder of Norden's Flora 1917-1927

Meadow buttercup Ranunculus acris

Buttercups keep their flowers safe from undesirable insects crawling up from the ground by furnishing their leaves and stems with hairs, for they invite only the flying insects to their flowers which will carry their pollen on hairy bodies. Even if insects such as ants could fly, very little pollen would adhere to their polished bodies.

The Meadow buttercup produces upright stems and much divided leaves. The sepals and petals spread widely and the anthers start to discharge their pollen as soon as the flower opens, beginning from the outside. However, the stigma's have not yet matured, nor do the stamens open on the side which turned towards them, but on their edges, and the as stamens ripen they gradually turn outwards.

The result is that bees and other insects which visit the flowers in search of honey, are almost sure to dust themselves with pollen, which they carry away with them and are very likely to deposit on another flower. In this way bees and other insects may well, in the course of their foraging deposit the pollen from younger flowers and carry them to the stigmas of those that are more advanced in age.

Wood anemones


Wood anemone Anemone nemorosa

The wood anemone has both sets of organs that mature simultaneously, and although no honey is offered bees visit the flowers, attracted by the colour, pierce the tender parts of the flower and suck up the juice. In this species cross and self pollination occur indifferently.

Stamens and pistil of a flower

Elements of science 1812
Elements of science 1812

Clematis alba Traveler's joy

In the case of Clematis alba they produce no honey but do give out a scent that attracts flies. The numerous stamens mature before the stigmas and occupy the center of the flower where they stand erect when the anthers discharge their pollen. When the pollen is shed, the stamens droop whilst he feathered stigmas lengthen and occupy the former position of the stamens, so that an insect coming from a younger flower with pollen in its underside and legs will alight on the stigmas and fertlize them.

The Columbine Aquilegia vulgaris

The Colombine or Aquilegia is a very familiar plant to all who love garden species and as such will be familiar with it even though they may never have encountered one in the wild. The flower is well equipped for insect fertilization for its five sepals are petal like and coloured, the petals are concave and each developed into a hooked spur in which the honey is produced and the numerous stamens mature before the five stigmas.

The flower droops and when it opens the bunch of stamens are found lying to the lower side of it, with the exception of a few that have elevated themselves so that they occupy the center of the flower. As they mature in succession the remaining stamens attain the position, and finally when the stamens have all shrivelled, the stigmas are left in possession of the center.

Long tongued bees are the fertilizing agents, and they regard the stamens has a convenient landing stage, from which they can push their long tongues into the petal spurs and extract the honey from the hollow compartment at the very end. And when they leaves the flower their underside is covered with pollen, which is rubbed against the stigma's. When they visit another flower cross-pollination occurs.. When one considers the angle at which the blossom hangs, the hollow compartment at the end of the spur is seen to be a necessity, without it the honey contained would simply drain out to the mouth of the tube, where any common fly could lap it up without being of any benefit to the flower.


Sammtlich Giftgewache Duecschlands !814
Sammtlich Giftgewache Duecschlands !814

Common Berberry

Moving on to members of other plant families we commence with the common Berberry the only British representative of the Family Berberidae. In the common Berberry ,Berberis vulgaris, the stamens lie close to the petals and almost at right angles to the pistil. The honey glands, 12 in all, are situated in pairs at the base of the petals, so that honey occupies the angle between the bases of the stamens and of the pistil. At the summit of the pistil is the stigma. In open flowers of this kind it is obvious that insects will dust themselves with the pollen and carry it with them to other flowers.

In Berberis however, both advantages, the dusting and cross-fertilization, are promoted by a very curious contrivance. The bases of the stamens are highly irritable, and when an insect touches them the stamens spring forward and strike the insect. The effect of this is not only to shed pollen over the insect, but also in some cases to startle it and drive it away, so that it carries the pollen to another flower.


The Flora Homeopathica- !852 1853
The Flora Homeopathica- !852 1853

Inside a cultivated poppy flower


The common Poppy

In the case of the common Poppy it has two sepals which drop off as the flowers expands. The flower has four petals, numerous stamens which form a ring around a globular or ovoid pistil, which is crowned by a circular disk, on which the stigmas radiate from the center.The flowers secrete no honey , but are visited for the sake of their pollen. Owing to the weakness of their petals, insects normally alight on the stigma, which forms a most convenient stage for them in the center of the stamens, and thus, naturally carry off the pollen from one flower to another.

The white dead nettle -Lamium alba

The White dead nettle of the Lamium family is especially adapted for fertilization by large bees, particularly bumble bees. the outline of the corolla is somewhat peculiar, the upper lip is helmet shaped and hold the stamens and pistil in such a manner that they automatically touch the bees back. The lower lip forms the platform as usual,, whilst a pair of side lobes keeps the insects head in the right position.

Honey is always secreted in the lower part of the long corolla tube. Both anthers and stigma mature together, but one of the lobes of the stigma hangs down between and below the anthers so that it first comes into contact with the back of the bee. These plants are very popular with bees , so that cross-fertilization in no doubt the rule. However, only the long tongued bees can reach the honey for a ring of hairs above the lobe prevents access to small insects.

White and purple dead nettles.

Billeder of Nordan's Flora 1917-1927
Billeder of Nordan's Flora 1917-1927


As we can see this fascinating relationship benefits both the flower and the insect, rewarding each other with what each requires. The subjects are endless but I hope that the above, which only touches on but a few species, has conveyed to you how reliant many species of flora are on insects for the purpose of being pollinated and how many species of insects are reliant on the flowers as a source of food { and shelter}

Bee on Burdock flower



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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Thank you Deb, may be one day ??? . Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Great work, as always. Perhaps you can gather all of these together one day, for a lovely book. I think that it would do quite well.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hello nice to meet you. I am glad you enjoyed the hub, and thank you for your kind comments. Best wishes to you.

    • jrpierce profile image


      5 years ago from Ellijay, Ga

      I really liked your information and the beautiful photos that you used to accent your point. I like I learned from you today, thank you!

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Nell,

      Thank you for your encouraging words, they are welcomed and appreciated. Best wishes to you.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 years ago from England

      This was fascinating DAL, its wonderful photos really added the right touch, and it reminded me of those old books that the wise women used to have! lol! this would make a great ebook!

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hello Eddy, thank you once again for your visits and for your usual kind comments and vote up. Much appreciated. Best wishes to you.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      5 years ago from Wales

      As always DAL your obvious hard work has certainly paid off and so thoroughly enjoyed. Here's to so many more to follow. Voted up and wishing you a wonderful day my dear friend.


    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      DDE, wow this hub has only been published an hour. Thank you so much for wanting to visit and for leaving your kind and appreciated comments. Best wishes to you. Ps --following you on twitter.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Flowers and their associated insect pollinators, this is an amazing hub, with the beautiful photos and I have learned lots from your hubs. Voted up, useful, interesting and awesome.


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