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Wild Ginger Hedges Its Bets When It Comes To Pollination

5-2-16  wild ginger 020Flowers that have limited opportunity to attract pollinating insects, such as those that mature very early in the spring, often are self-fertile – they can produce seeds without the benefit of pollinators.  Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) is a perfect example of this.

Wild Ginger has six inner stamens and six outer stamens, all of which produce pollen.  In a newly-opened flower, all of these stamens lie flat against the “floor” of the flower.  When the stamens are in this position, pollination is achieved by insects (often flies or beetles attracted to its rotten meat coloring and scent) as the pollen cannot reach the receptive stigma on its own.  Wild Ginger hedges its bets, however.  Whether or not pollination occurs early in its development, later in the life of the flower both inner and outer stamens move into an upright position, thereby moving closer to the stigma.  Because the flower is oriented downward, this change in the position of the stamens allows for the pollen to fall onto the stigma, thereby accomplishing self-pollination.  With or without pollinators, Wild Ginger succeeds in producing seeds.

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7 responses

  1. Slugs are also pollinators of Canadian Wild Ginger, their flowers are at the floor and makes it easy for them to get inside

    May 5, 2016 at 8:03 am

  2. mariagianferrari

    Gorgeous!

    May 5, 2016 at 9:37 am

  3. I am astounded to learn about slug pollination Zinniaz4bees! Thanks for sharing that on this, my favorite blog! Thank you too, Mary. I now have a new found appreciation for slugs and my wild ginger plants!

    May 5, 2016 at 11:09 am

  4. k

    This is one of my most favorite plants. I have lots of it in my shade garden and always get a kick out of showing people the flowers. It’s such a lovely, hardy, deep shade ground cover.

    May 5, 2016 at 11:32 am

  5. I’m always learning new things here – thanks, Mary.

    May 5, 2016 at 5:12 pm

  6. Jean Harrison

    Beautiful photos and fascinating explanation. I don’t quite get the geometry of why self-pollination occurs when the flower is upside down. It seems to me that the pollen would fall right out of the flower.

    May 5, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    • I assume it’s the pollen on the stamens on the top that falls down onto the pistil. (The blossom is really more horizontal than upside down!)

      May 5, 2016 at 8:24 pm

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