By Wendy Langhans
Drivers have relied on lane markers for almost 100 years to safely get them where they’re going. Double yellow lines means “no passing”. Broken white lines means “more than one lane going in the same direction”. But flowers have been providing insects with lane markers for millions of years. These floral lane markers are known as nectar guides.
Nectar guides are visual markings that direct pollinators to the flower’s pollen and nectar. Sometimes they are visible to human eyes.
This wild sweet pea provides nectar guides that are visible to the human eye.
But sometimes they are not. “In many bee-pollinated flowers, there is a region of low ultraviolet reflectance near the center of each petal.” The ultraviolet patterns are invisible to humans, as our vision does not detect ultraviolet light, but bees can detect ultraviolet light.” In other words, the flower that we see as a yellow disk, the bee sees as a bulls-eye.
What would this flower look like to a creature that sees ultraviolet light?
Some flowers even provide a “road closed” sign. When a blossom on a lupine is pollinated, it makes no sense to devote metabolic resources to producing more nectar and pollen. So the blossom changes color to notify pollinators that they need to take a detour to the next available blossom. If you take a closer look at a lupine, you can see this “road closed” sign yourself.
Color changes in these blossoms serve as a “detour” sign.
And in the tropics of South America, some flowering plants provide a type of auditory nectar guide. One flower petal extends above the flower and is shaped like concave mirror. This petal guides the night-flying bat, who relies on echolocation, to the nectar-laden flower. So the next time you enter a crosswalk and hear the “chirping” of the “Accessible Pedestrian Signal”, just remember – a flower thought of this first.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
For Facebook Users: 90 Days of Santa Clarita Valley Wildflowers.
Here’s a new way to familiarize yourself with our local wildflowers. Become a fan of the page, “90 Days of Santa Clarita Valley Wildflowers” and from now through April, each day you’ll receive a photo of a local wildflower and a link to a website where you can learn more.
Saturday, January 30, 9:00 AM. SCV Search and Rescue Team Trail Challenge. Kickoff registration begins at 8:00 in the picnic grove at Towsley Canyon. For more information go here.
Saturday, February 13, 1-3 PM. Sweets for the Valentine. Take your sweetie out for a refreshing walk in nature that will delight the eyes and heart. Heavy rains cancel. For map, click here.
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.