Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Flowers: the business parts

Let's face it. The colorful petals that so attract us to beautiful flowers are just that: good looks. Window dressing. Spin. Marketing. All designed to draw the eye of the pollinator, be it bird or insect, to the heart of the blossom where the next generation is in the making. This week I got caught up photographing the central portions of flowers currently blooming in my garden pots. (Technical note: I used my older Sony for these pictures; macro shots with the Canon are neither as close nor as satisfactory.)

Many of our wild penstemons feature lines directing the eye into the business works, where pollen from the anthers is rubbed off and deposited on the stigma or female part leading to the ovary. In some blossoms, such lines are in the ultraviolet, visible to many critters other than humans.

Two more local penstemon. Above, Palmer's or wild pink snapdragon and, below, beardstongue. It's pretty hard to miss the beard on the latter. I had to upend the flower so that you can see inside it; normally, it hangs with the innards facing toward the ground. Beardstongue is a bright red; not surprisingly, it's a favorite with hummingbirds.

And here is the tame cousin of the wildpenstemon -- a garden snapdragon. BTW, I had to do that old kid's trick of pinching the sides of the flower so that it opened for the photograph.

In the real world, the intense purple of this petunia (above) hides the fact that it, too, features lines directing traffic toward the stamen and the stigma. Unfortunately, all I got for my efforts with the purple morning glory (below) was a wonderful central glow.

My mystery poppy which popped into existence this year from seedings past starts out with the anthers growing tightly around the center, but as they begin to release pollen (below), they spread out and their supporting filaments lengthen. That central arrangement where the seeds are made turns into a neat pod.

The California poppy doesn't produce such a tidy arrangement, though the central portion turns directly into a seed pod, just like its cousin above.

Speaking of cousins... our wild globe mallow is a hollyhock family member. There's a reason that the petals and the central works weren't both in focus above -- the stigma and anther stick out at right angles to the flower, as is evident from the view below.

The grains of pollen at the center of this portulaca show up quite nicely, but the stigma (the "star" to the upper left) sits above them in a different plane of focus. Below, the center of an ice plant flower.

Note that the anthers of this dianthus are attached ever so flexibly in order to scatter the pollen even in a slight breeze. The odds are that some of the pollen will land on the stigma in the center.

Right now, I don't have many composites in bloom, tho my very own from-seed sunflower has just opened; it's too tall for me to photograph its big center. So we'll make do with the gallardia (above) and a coreopsis (below). Both plants feature ray and disk flowers in the center; each "petal" is actually a separate ray flower.


Catalyst said...

Wonderful stuff, GJ!

Granny J said...

Thank you kindly, Cat-A. It was a fun post to do -- and I learned a bit of botany in the process.

OmegaMom said...

Very cool post, mamasan. I particularly like the otherworldly glow of the morning glory.

RobinHawaii said...

Hey Cuz: Are you sure that you didn't take these from National Geographic??????? They're lovely. Robin

Jules said...

Wow! What a lovely variety you have in your garden. And am immensly impressed with your botancal knowledge.
Did you know (and I just found this out not so long ago) that in California there are two types of California poppies? The coastal variety and the inland type.

meggie said...

Wonderful photographs Julie! Love them all.

TomboCheck said...

Very nicely capture GJ! Definitely learned a lot from this post.

Curious - what kind of Canon and Sony are you using?

Granny J said...

dotter -- it really needs one of those yellow & purple radiation warning signs...

Cuz -- glad you made it; do visit again.

jules -- the experts have decided that our Arizona gold poppy is yet another version of the California poppy; previously, it had been classed separately.

meggie -- it was a gas taking those pictures & seeing the flowers so much better than my old eyes do.

tombo -- the Sony is a little 2.1 meg CyberShot; the Canon is a PowerShot S3IS. It's obvious that the basic lens on the Sony is a lot longer & that the Canon has a slightly wide angle basic lens, which means that it doesn't get nearly as close when doing a macro shot. And no, I'm not going to graduate to an SLR -- at my age, I don't need to carry all that glass.

Anonymous said...

You have become an artist. Love the shots. Some cameras work better than others. I know what you mean.

quilteddogs said...

These shots are "other worldly", especially the morning glory. How cool is that?

Have you tried using the supermacro setting on your Canon?

Granny J said...

qd -- that would involve unearthing a tripod to hold the camera really steady -- and I'm not willing to go down that road, just as I don't want to carry a lot of glass with an SLR. Thus far, I've been shooting handheld, though I have been tempted to get out the tripod when I'm after birds. However, I really can't carry all that stuff with me on a walk!

Mary said...

Good post. It opens my eyes to just how much I could learn about pollinators by looking at the colors and architecture of the inner flower. You've sent me off onto a new journey of my own.


Granny J said...

Mary -- welcome and thank you for your interest. My examples were pretty much limited to the everyday sort of pollination. I suspect that you might have some much more unusual plants and pollinators in Panama. Well worth a look!

Lane said...

Zowie! Love those flower private parts!

Granny J said...

Lane -- aren't they cool?

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