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Posts tagged “Claytonia caroliniana

Spring Beauty Rust

Spring Beauty is one of the early woodland ephemerals that greet us before tree buds have opened and released the leaves that will soon shade the forest floor. With April showers plentiful the ground is often damp, encouraging the growth of Spring Beauty Rust (Puccinia mariae-wilsoniae), a species of rust fungus that grows on both species of Spring Beauty (Claytonia caroliniana and C. virginica) that we have in the Northeast. There are approximately 7,000 species of rust fungi, all of which are parasites of plants from which they obtain nutrients and on which they reproduce and complete their life cycles.

Spring Beauty Rust can be recognized by the scattered clusters of reddish-brown sori (clusters of sporangia, structures producing and containing spores) that cover the surface of Spring Beauty’s leaves, stems and the sepals on the outside of flower buds. 

If you survey a patch of Spring Beauty you will see that some are quite white while others have deep pink nectar guides and pollen.  As a rule, Spring Beauty Rust infects plants with pinker flowers.

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Spring Beauty Pollen-Specialists

We hear a lot about honey bees and other species of social bees (that live in colonies) pollinating crops and other flowering plants, but there is another, larger,  group of bees, called solitary (nesting) bees, which plays a significant role in pollinating plants.  These bees live alone, forage for pollen for their larvae and in the process pollinate vast numbers of flowers.

Mining bees make up one group of solitary bees.  They are small and nest individually in the ground.  One species of mining bee you often see on Spring Beauty is Andrena erigeniae.  Females are hairy and often loaded with Spring Beauty’s pink pollen.  Males are smaller, slimmer and less hairy. The thing that sets this species of mining bee apart is the fact that it is a “pollen-specialist” —  it collects pollen from only two plant species, Virginia (or Narrow-leaved) Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) and Carolina Spring Beauty (C. caroliniana).

Pollen from these blossoms is formed into balls and placed into underground brood chambers the female bee has dug with her jaws and legs. She deposits a single egg on each ball of pollen for the larva to eat when the egg hatches.  During the summer the larva pupates and by late autumn development of the adult is complete. Winter is spent in the adult stage within the brood chamber and the bee emerges in the spring just as Spring Beauty flowers.  Male and female bees emerge at roughly the same time and their mating, as well as their food collection, is said to take place on the flowers of Spring Beauty. (Photo:  male Andrena erigeniae on Carolina Spring Beauty)

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