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SCV Outdoor Report: Get A Grip

By Wendy Langhans

Last year, we had to have our shower rebuilt (because it wasn’t built right to begin with – but that’s whole ‘nother story).  The remodeling contractor recommended we replace the original shower floor tiles, using smaller tiles with a higher coefficient of friction, so that there would be less chance of slipping.  We took his advice. 

But humans aren’t the only animals that can slip on a slick surface.  And as recent studies have shown, we aren’t the only creatures building slip-resistance floors.  Flowers do too.  The epithelium (surface) of many flower petals are slip-resistant, because their surface cells are conical-shaped, rather than flat. To visualize this, think of a plate full of chocolate chips, pointy-end-up and arranged in a single layer:

Chocolate chips have a conical shape (as long as you don’t eat them).

This conical structure allows the foraging bee to “get a grip”, while sipping nectar or harvesting pollen grains.

Not all flower petals are horizontal.

Researchers at Cambridge used snapdragons to test the bee’s ability to detect differences in the surface shape of petals.  While most snapdragon petals contain conical cells, certain “mutant” snapdragons do not.  When the petals were rotated so that the surface was horizontal, the bees chose the conical petals 50% of the time.  But when the surface was vertical (and therefore more easy to fall off), the bees chose the conical petals 74% of the time.

White Snapdragons can be found in our valley. (Photo by S. Ioerger)

Choosy bees choose petals with conical cells.  Researchers believe that may explain why “about 80% of the flowers studied have these cells”.  And the conclusion I draw from this study?  That 80% of flowers are smarter than the contractors who build our house.  Or, perhaps even more likely, 74% of the bees are smarter than me.

Upcoming Outdoor Events: 

Saturday, June 13 & 27, and every Wednesday, 8:00 AM.  Trail Maintenance Volunteers at Towsley Canyon.

Come join our trail maintenance volunteers for camaraderie and a heart-thumping workout.  For more information contact Steve Ioerger at 661-291-1565.

Saturday, June 20, 8:00-10:00 AM.  Morning Bird Hike in Towsley Canyon.  Towsley Canyon is a year-round home for birds.  They like our Mediterranean climate, the local bounty and the California sunshine.  Bring your binoculars and meet at the entrance.  For map and directions go here.

Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The Hike Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

For the complete MRCA hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, click here or go to

SCV Outdoor Report: Get A Grip

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