What’s the buzz about pollination?
Test your knowledge by answering true or false to the following questions.
1. Seedless watermelons grow from seed.
2. Don’t bother collecting seeds in your garden until fall.
3. Columbines are self-seeding annuals.
4. You can share your favourite columbine with your friends by collecting the seeds and giving them away.
5. Most flowers pollinate themselves.
6. If you didn’t get around to planting some seeds this year, wait until next spring and plant them.
7. Bees eat pollen.
8. Bees are attracted to the colour red.
9. The pistil of the flower is the female part of the plant.
10. A single bee produces about a tablespoon of honey in its lifetime.
1. True. The seedless watermelon is grown from a seed produced by crossing a regular watermelon with a genetically altered watermelon.
2. False. Collect seeds when they’re ripe; the timing varies from one plant to the next, but some seeds of early spring bloomers are ready now. When the seedpod is dry and rigid and the seeds are brown or black, they are probably ready for harvesting. If you wait, the seeds may be eaten by birds or insects or they may sow themselves, and you’ll have lost your chance.
3. False. Columbines are perennials, though they tend to be short-lived (three or five years) and do self-sow with ease.
4. False. Columbines are… um… promiscuous. Unless you have a very controlled environment, there is no telling what columbine has pollinated your favourite beauty; the seeded offspring don’t often look much like the parent. They’re still beautiful, though.
5. False. Most plants are cross-pollinated; only a few self-pollinate, which means one flower acts as both mother and father.
6. True. You’ll have a reduced rate of germination, but it’s worth a try. You can always try the old method of soaking the seeds in water before you plant them; in general, those that float won’t germinate and those that sink might.
7. True. Bees mix pollen with nectar to make “beebread”, which they feed to their babies. In the process of collecting pollen and nectar from flowers, of course, they spread pollen from one flower to the next, enabling the next generation of the plants.
8. False. In fact, bees can see the colour spectrum from ultraviolet to orange, but they cannot see red. Hummingbirds are attracted to red.
9. True. Intuitively, the “pistil” sounds and looks like it should be the male part of the flower, but it’s the female part. The pistil is the larger protrusion from the centre of a flower (see the tulip, pictured, for a good example); at the bottom of the pistil, inside the flower, is the ovule, which will become a seed when the flower is pollinated.
10. False. One worker bee, living an average of 45 days, produces only 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey over its lifetime.
How do you rate?
8-10 correct: You’re a honey of a gardener!
5-7 correct: Seeds from your flowers land on fertile ground.
Fewer than 5 correct: The truth stings.