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Archive for September 19, 2011

Bottle Gentian

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One of our latest flowering plants is the brilliant blue bottle, or closed, gentian (Gentiana andrewsii ).  It is so-called because the tips of its petals come together like the neck of a bottle, protecting the nectar from rain.  The lure of bottle gentian for insects is both the abundance of nectar, as well as its high (40%) sugar content .  Only the strongest of insects, however, are able to struggle their way down into the flower in order to reach the nectaries.  Because of their strength and perseverance, bumblebees are the primary pollinator of bottle gentian.  Once a flower has been visited and its nectar collected, the tips of its petals turn white, signaling other bees that it would be a waste of time and energy to fight their way into the flower. (Yellow lumps are pollen in the bee’s pollen baskets, specialized hairs on the bee’s hind legs.)