Many people think of May as a time when flowers are in bloom. Just what do flowers do for plants and how do they do it?
Sit and watch some pretty flowers. Do any insects come to the flowers? If yes, what do they do?
Use your finger to visit some flowers as if your finger was a bee. Make sure no bee is inside of the flower already. Does something stick to your finger? What is it?
Most flowers will not turn into fruits with seeds inside unless they have been pollinated. Without seeds, there will not be new plants. A flower has been pollinated when some dust-like pollen lands on the top of the female part of the flower. This sticky top part is called the stigma. Once pollen is on the stigma, it grows a long tube down to the ovary where it causes egg-like ovules to grow to become seeds. If you have ever seen the silk on an ear of corn, you have seen very long pollen tubes. For a drawing of a flower with parts labeled, click here (part of the Partners in Pollination site) or visit this page (part of Mendel Web).
There are many ways to move pollen from one flower to another. Around New York State, pollen usually moves by wind or by insects. Wind pollinated flowers usually are not very showy but make lots of pollen. Insect (and hummingbird) pollinated flowers usually have large, brightly colored petals to make them easy to see. Some also have a strong smell that makes them easier to find.
Take a piece of paper and go for a walk around your yard or school property. Every time you find a different flower, write down if it is showy to attract an animal as a pollen mover, or if it is small and hard to see and probably uses wind to move its pollen. Which one do you predict you will find more of? Why? Which one do you find more of? Remember to look at trees, grasses and shrubs too.
Pines, spruces and fir trees do not have flowers. They have cones which will not develop seeds unless they are pollinated. How do they get pollinated?