Sep 01 2011

From the Hummingbird’s Point of View

Published by at 7:30 am under Plants

This morning I really examined a nasturtium for the first time.

Though it has five petals and sepals, the flower is slightly irregular in shape.  The two upper petals have crenellated stripes, the lower three have feathery edges.  Together they form a bowl but the bowl is porous.  If you pull on a petal you can see that the petals and sepals aren't connected. 

Like many flowers, nasturtiums raise their stamens and pistil at different times in the blooming period.  These line up behind the feathery lower petals and force visiting hummingbirds to hover rather than perch.  No problem for hummers!

I say "hummingbirds" because the nectar in this flower is inaccessible to bees.  It's not in the bowl but in the long, narrow nectar tube whose entrance is a tiny hole.  When I looked at the nectar tube I said "Aha!"  It's the same shape and size as a hummingbird's bill. 

We humans see the nasturtium's face -- and so does the hummingbird -- but the real goal is that insignificant tube.   

(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the photo to see the original)

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “From the Hummingbird’s Point of View”

  1. Rob Protzon 01 Sep 2011 at 11:18 am

    That big red flag – the flower – is nothing but a big neon sign saying “Here’s the nectar Hummers, come and get it!”

    It would be interesting to see what that flower looks like in UV light. Probably very different to a hummer!


  2. Marcy Con 02 Sep 2011 at 9:10 am

    I saw last year when I had nasturtiums, the bees, esp the bumble bees would go to the bottom of the plant and chew thru where the nectar is stored…they have been doing the same with any longer tubed flowers including jewelweed…shortcut for them, but I think that would ruin the chance of the flower reproducing more nectar??? Should be lots of activity today with the hot and humid day. Hope it will be done this weekend with the heat.

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