Photo credit, C Gracie.
|One of our earliest spring wildflowers, Dutchman’s breeches, derives its name from the resemblance of the flowers to a clothesline of several pairs of old fashioned Dutch pantaloons.
The curious shape of the flowers reflects their co-evolution with their native pollinator, the bumblebee. The flowers’ nectar is held at the tip of the “pant legs” and is accessible only to insects having a long tongue. Queen bumblebees are the only bees to survive the Northeastern winters, and they eagerly seek the earliest flowers in bloom during the first weeks of spring. The bees hang from the flowers and insert their proboscises (sucking mouthparts) into the long spurs of the flowers.
Other flying insects have learned to beat the system by biting holes in the spurs to reach the nectar. They are termed “nectar thieves” since they manage to get the reward without also touching the reproductive parts and effecting pollination. (Fig. 82)
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