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Turtlehead Flowering & Being Pollinated By Bumble Bees

Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) can be found growing along stream banks and wetlands throughout eastern North America. This plant gets its common name from the flower’s long arching upper lip, or hood, which overlaps the lower lip like a turtle’s beak.

The male parts of the flower mature before the female parts, and when pollen is being produced these lips are very hard to pry open. Pollinators are primarily bumble bees, which are some of the only insects that have the strength to open the flower. When the female pistil matures, the lips relax a bit, so entry is easier. However, access to the nectar at the base of the flower is restricted (by a sterile stamen) to long-tongued insects. Thus, it is specifically long-tongued bumble bees that are able to both enter the flower and to reach the nectar. (Photo:  bumble bee collecting pollen (see filled baskets on hind legs) from Turtlehead)  Thanks to Jody Crosby for photo op.

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9 responses

  1. Mary Waugh

    Mary, I never cease to be amazed at what you teach us about nature. Thank you so much. Also, I am so happy that your daughter and grandchildren are doing well. Boy, are they ever lucky to have you as their grandmother! With appreciation, Mary

    August 19, 2019 at 7:40 am

    • Thank you so much, for your very kind words, Mary. They are much appreciated. After a lifetime of introducing little ones to the natural world, it is pure joy to do this with my own grandchildren.

      August 19, 2019 at 7:47 am

  2. athie Fiveash

    What a wonderful picture.

    August 19, 2019 at 8:10 am

  3. Cool.

    On Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 7:14 AM Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: “Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) can be found growing > along stream banks and wetlands throughout eastern North America. This > plant gets its common name from the flower’s long arching upper lip, or > hood, which overlaps the lower lip like a turtle’s beak. The” >

    August 19, 2019 at 8:24 am

  4. Alice

    I really laughed out loud! That’s an awesome photo! What determination & strength! Wonderful info!

    August 19, 2019 at 9:30 am

  5. Jody crosby

    What a shot! I love that you walk and photograph our land Mary, you have opened my eyes to so much! Jody

    August 19, 2019 at 10:02 am

  6. kathryn

    That’s a great picture of the south end of a bee going north!

    August 19, 2019 at 6:16 pm

  7. cornelia gephart

    Dear Mary…..FYI, only . ( a curiosity). These photos show a nocturnal event: While watering my border garden, I noticed this stone had been purposely removed and a hole had been dug into the lawn. Scattered about were remnants of a comb with very small cells (2mm) and a few 1 cm black wasps around.. Evidently, an animal ( raccoon, skunk?) had sniffed out the possibility of finding a colony underneath and gone to great exertion to get at it. Connie Gephart, Post Mills VT

    ________________________________

    August 19, 2019 at 9:01 pm

  8. cannjen

    Some people believe in reincarnation. If I did, I think I’d like to come back as a bee 🙂

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    August 20, 2019 at 7:40 am

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