Color Coded For Bees

Horse Chestnut flowers, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)
A close look at horse chestnut flowers (photo by Kate St. John)

12 May 2015

This week the horse chestnut trees are in full bloom in Schenley Park.

Common horse chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum) are native to southeastern Europe but are planted widely in the U.S. for their beauty and shade.  Their flowers are dramatic in 10″ tall clusters and their large leaves with seven leaflets provide lots of shade.

Horse Chestnut tower of flowers, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)
Horse-chestnut leaves and stack of flowers (photo by Kate St. John)

Up close, the ornate white flowers have spots in either yellow or pinkish-red.  There’s a purpose behind the beauty.

When the flower is unfertilized the spot inside is yellow.  After pollination the spot turns reddish to tell the bees, “Don’t waste your time on me.”

The flowers are color coded for the bees.

(photos by Kate St. John)

6 thoughts on “Color Coded For Bees

  1. Kate, thanks for posting this.
    A best friend and I have been in love with these trees for years! We often try to visit each other right when the trees are in bloom, so we can appreciate them together. I never knew why the blossoms were different colors.

  2. Grew up in Niagara Falls, NY with two of these trees in the front yard…. loved them!

  3. Happy Birthday Kate! Hope you have a wonderful day and be blessed with the sight of a life bird!

    Best Regards

    1. Rob, I don’t know what they look like in UV. Perhaps they’re pretty interesting.

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