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Flowers and Pollinators
June 15, 2009

Welcome new readers.

I hope you stick around and we become friends.

Last week our daughter, Yolanda had some surgery.

After a few rough days and nights, She seems to be on the road to recovery.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

Prayers continue to readers and their families as well.

This past Saturday was a joy for us.

We went to an American Indian Pow Wow.

I've wanted to go to a Pow Wow for the past several years but always had to work.

I guess that is one nice thing being out of work, we can see and do a few things that time never allowed for in the past

We had a wonderful time.

Don't look now, but rumor has it, we may have a couple of 80 degree days here this week (including today, Monday) in my part of Michigan.

I know there are parts of Michigan and other regions that would covet a 70 degree day and parts of the Deep South that would probably appreciate a few 70 degree days as well.

Our prayers go out to the storm riddled areas.

Wildlife abounds.

There is no shortage of birds right now.

The yard and feeder activity is amazing this year.

Besides all the regulars,

A pair of Rose-breasted grosbeaks decided to call this location home (that doesn't happen to often).

And to my delight, a couple of White-crowned sparrows have decided to hang out as well.

Typically these birds left for Canada several weeks ago.

The wild turkeys are bringing their polts (young) out and about.

I think the only birds missing are the Indigo buntings.

Please feel free to send some my way, if you have a few to spare

A few toads have made my yard their summer home as well.

Life is good.

Well, almost.

In the neighbor's yard is a fledged robin with a birth defect or an injury, as it postures like a hunch back and has a difficult time flying.

Like good parents, they are caring for it.

I know it wont survive, but it is interesting non the less.

Eggs shells and banana peels.

Two staples for any garden.

Washed and crushed egg shells work as grit for birds (washed because raw egg can cause Salmonella poisoning in birds).

Egg shells work wonders in keeping slugs away from your prized plants (tear up the under side).

Worked into the ground around tomato plants and the calcium from crushed egg shells is absorbed into the plants and aid in preventing blossom end rot with proper watering habits (trust me).

I nuke the shells for a minute or so to make them dry and brittle, easy for crushing.

Banana peels are loaded with Phosphorous and this promotes blooms and aids in root growth as well.

Work the cut up or whipped up peels into the soil around any and all plants to give that extra oomph.

I keep telling my self I need to shorten these letters to make them more readable, but sometimes there is so much to say, and this week seems to fall in line with the later.

Let's get to the main topic.

Flowers and pollinators.


Perfume for Pollinators

Magazines are full of them.

Scratch 'n' sniff, cologne and perfume strips, and other forms of olfactory advertising.

Scents to attract or sooth the savage beast.

Are you Using Fragrant Plants to Lure Insects and Other Critters Into the Garden?

You can you know.

Without the Scratch-n-sniff gimmicks

The truth is, plants have been doing this since the beginning of time.

Plants advertise with fragrance in various ways.

For example, they perfume their blooms to seduce the insects, bats, and other critters they need to pollinate their flowers.

Floral fragrance is a kind of olfactory come-on that proclaims to a potential flower fertilizer, "Come hither, honey, 'cause there's scrumptious pollen and sweet nectar hidden inside these pretty petals."

In addition to a full belly, the pollinator leaves with pollen attached to its body in a bundle or dusted on its fur.

When the pollinator lands on another flower while looking for its next meal, cross-fertilization can occur.

Scientists believe that one reason plants are in big trouble around the globe is because their pollinators are disappearing.

A major factor in their decline is loss of habitat to farms and urban development.

Without their pollinators, the flowers of many species don't get fertilized.

If they don't get fertilized, they don't set seed and can't reproduce.

In a pinch, some plants can pollinate themselves, but this often causes inbreeding and other genetic problems that ultimately threaten the species survival.

By creating gardens that feature a variety of fragrant flowers to attract a diversity of pollinators, we gardeners can help compensate for the loss of habitat and lend plants and their partners a helping hand.

As a bonus, we get whiffs of the heady scents ourselves.

Signature Scents:

Plants employ not just scent but also visual cues like flower color to facilitate reproduction.

For example, Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red and many red flowers don't have a strong smell that would attract bees.

Beetles were made to be attracted by cetain smells.

Certain insects for certain smells.

This minimizes the competition and battles.

Although many insects are near sighted and some may be color blind (though tests show insects see in ultraviolet), they have a great sense of smell.

So, it's no big surprise that the magnolias and other flowers they still pollinate pack powerful perfumes.

Floral fragrance is far from an antiquated trait, however.

It seems that orchids, use it to captivate their reproductive partners.

In fact, although flowers can be identical in color and shape, no two floral fragrances are alike.

Every plant has its own signature scent, a complex mixture of volatile organic compounds that easily turn to gases and waft through the air.

Some 1,700 compounds have been identified in flower fragrances so far, according to Purdue University research that studied floral scents.

An orchid can produce a hundred different volatile compounds, while a snapdragon produces seven to ten.

Purdue's researchers recently isolated the gene for one of these compounds, methyl benzoate.

Some 30 to 40 commercially important plants—including snapdragons, flowering tobaccos, and petunias—use this same fragrance-generation system.

Intensive breeding for bigger, more colorful, and longer-lasting blooms during the past few decades evidently has deactivated the gene.

Which is why so many modern varieties are disappointing in the scent department.

A plant that is pouring so much energy into producing flashier-looking flowers, is in essence too pooped to make perfume.

To date, little is known about how pollinators respond to the individual compounds found in flower scents.

But it is clear that they are capable of distinguishing among complex scent mixtures and therefore among plant species—their schnozzolas steer them to the ones that provide the most delectable nectar or pollen.

Since the beginning of time, creation has allowed for certain smells to attract certain insects and other pollinators

That's right, a designed, symbiotic relationship between plant and pollinator.

Breeders remove certain traits like smells and pollin for larger showier blooms, or plants that have other traights like tall, short, desease resistant, etc. and then add some other traits and now, some plants and pollinators are in trouble.

They don't know each other.

You could say that it's all in the proboscis of the beholder (or antennae, the olfactory organs of bees, beetles, and moths).

Pollinators are very picky about flower odors.

Bees, for example, prefer the sweet scent of plants like snapdragons and sweet peas.

Beetles are partial to flowers with fruity and spicy scents, such as magnolias.

Moths, which are mostly nocturnal, are attracted to flowers such as jasmine, which advertise their presence under the cloak of darkness with strong, sweet perfumes.

Moths have a keen sense of smell and have even been known to pick up the scent of an enticing plant from 900 feet away.

Bats are also night flyers with good noses, but they favor blooms with musty aromas.

Most bats in the United States are insectivorous, but three flower-eating species migrate from Mexico to pollinate dozens of agaves and giant cacti in the desert Southwest.

Lesser long-nosed bats, for example, take a predictable path in spring, following blooming cacti northward through the Sonoran Desert.

Most people don't think of flies as pollinators, but they play a critical role in the fertilization of some flowers.

Flies fancy blossoms that emit the essence of carrion or dung and look like lumps of rotting flesh.

Among their favorites are our native red trilliums, which early naturalists christened "stinking benjamins" because of their stench.

Birds and most butterflies are olfactory challenged, so the flowers that depend on them for pollination don't waste time and energy on smelling beautiful.

Within the various groups of flower fertilizers there are generalists, which have cosmopolitan floral tastes, and specialists, which have a monogamous relationship with the blossoms they visit.

Among the ultimate pollinator specialists are the moths that fertilize yuccas, which typically send up stout stalks of white flowers.

Yuccas, including about 30 species native to North America, such as the Spanish bayonet (Yucca schottii) and the Joshua tree (Y. brevifolia), are pollinated only by yucca moths, and 70 percent of yucca moth species visit the flowers of only one yucca species.

False Advertising:

Pollinators aren't always too bright about using fragrance to find the flowers that offer the best rewards, and some flowers exploit their gullibility by resorting to false advertising.

Consider jack-in-the-pulpit, skunk cabbage, and other aroids, whose tiny flowers, massed together along a fleshy pole partially surrounded by a leaf, smell of stinking fish and feces.

Flies arrive with great expectations of finding some rotting tissue in which to lay their eggs.

They get trapped inside a chamber at the base of the leaf that protects the fertile flowers and remain incarcerated until the flowering pole wilts.

In the process of trying to escape, they pollinate the plant.

False or not, when it comes to advertising scent, timing is everything.

Snapdragons release four times more scent during the day, when their bee pollinators are busy foraging, than at night.

By contrast, nicotianas are most fragrant after dusk, when their moth pollinators are out and about.

Different flowers flaunt their fragrance at different times.

What's more, flowers show off their perfumes only when they are good and ready for fertilization.

Newly opened blossoms don't produce as much scent as mature ones do, and fertilized flowers not only make less fragrance but also lower-quality perfume.

It's useful to keep these things in mind when using fragrance in the garden to help nurture plants and their pollinators.

Invite a variety of pollinators into your garden by offering a large and diverse mix of fragrant species, both day and night bloomers.

Plant favored species in drifts of at least three to five to attract pollinators and make it worth their while to visit.

Drifts and beds of multiples also help attract butterflies and hummingbirds as well.

Choose old-fashioned varieties and native flowers whenever possible, because breeding has caused some modern-day blooms to lose their fragrance, and even those that still have scent may lack the nectar that pollinators need to thrive.

Plant a mix of flowers that cater to both generalist and specialist pollinators, so all can partake of the feast.

Design your garden so that there is a continuous succession of plants in bloom to provide nonstop food sources for hungry pollinators.

Avoid using pesticides, even nonchemical ones such as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), which can decimate pollinator populations.

Well, Its time to fly for now.

However, before I go it is time for this week's positive thought.

Being defeated is often only a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.

Marilyn vos Savant

Can you imagine if we gave up or quit every time we were defeated?

How many of us would've learned how to walk?

I keep falling down, what's the use on trying?

My knees are so skinned up from falling off this bicycle..............

I'm not trying anymore.

Why learn how to drive?

Why ask a girl or guy out.

Why try this

Why try that.

I'm only going to meet with defeat.


We meet with defeat.

We get our knees skinned

We fall on our butt.

We get our proverbial teeth kicked in time and time again.

When you stay down..............................

It doesn't hurt as much you tell your self.

When you stay down...........................

You are defeated

You have lost.

Not only have you lost at trying.....................

You have lost your integrity.

You have given up on you.

You have lost your self respect.

You have lost everything.

I or several others can talk till the sky turns green, but only you can pick your self up.

Only you can look into the mirror and say "I am a good person and I love myself"

Only you can pick you up and keep trying.

I can't say it for you, though I can say it to you.

I have learned to not give up on myself and others.

I have not given up on dreams and ideas when those around me think I'm off my rocker.

Even if others have given up on me, I keep going and believing in me to the best of my ability.

It's not easy...................

Some days it may be simply to wake up and say "thank you Lord."

Some days, I can't wait to get going.

Go ahead..............

Knock me down................

I'm getting up and with a smile :-)

Defeat is only temporary, often we make it out to be something more.

If you give up, then others give up on you as well.

Keep going and others will continue by your side (I for one will be there).

Keep going and growing.

Life is good

Life is to short

I know you are a winner...........

I know you are special.............

Now smile, grow and share.

Grow a smile.....

Share your smile.........

One step moving forward.

Countless lives affected.

Isn't God Grand.

Until next time

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can recieve their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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