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A Little Help from Some Friends

May 20, 2020

by Aaron Pflug • Kidzeum Staff

A majority of plants and flowers on Earth rely on a little help from their pollinator friends to get by in regard to cross-pollination. And, while a few plants form a symbiotic relationship with their pollinators, many plants and flowers are left to compete for the attention of potential pollinators. So, what’s the secret?

It’s actually pretty simple in most cases: be a food source! Most pollinators aren’t purposefully pollinating the plants they visit. They collect and deposit pollen incidentally as they access – or attempt to access – food, often sweet nectar. Providing food is a great motivator for a visit!

But plants and flowers still need to let the pollinators know they’re open for business!

Previously we explored how standing out with color is important for flowers, but pollinators use other methods for identifying where and how to access their next meal, too. Other kinds of visual cues and olfactory hints are especially fascinating methods plants use to attract pollinators!

Of course, when considering the relationship(s) between such a wide variety of plant and animal life, it’s nearly impossible to account for all the specific ways pollination is achieved. But, as is often the case in Nature, all the complexities can be traced to a simple motivation: survival. For these plants, flowers, and pollinators, each is a means to the others’ ends.

So, while we may cherish the vibrance, shape, or scent of a bloom, remember: there’s probably a creature out there who loves it even more than we do!

Get outside (weather permitting, of course) and investigate the plants and flowers in your area while the blooms are fresh! Before heading out, study parts of the flower and have your little learner(s) identify parts of the flowers you come across!

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