Flowers 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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