Today John and I worked inside on our upcoming wildflower atlas. I proudly say “our,” but I’m just the assistant, while John’s wildflower photos are the value. Of these, one of my alltime faves is Grassleaf Golden Aster, aka Silkgrass, with big bright yellow flower heads and its silvery silky leaves.
Some of its points of interest are:
1. It likes fires, recovering quickly after a burn, and suffering from competition in the absence of fire to clear the ground. Its presence in open sandy scrub no doubt comes from the minimal competition there.
2. The leaves have long silky hairs that fuse into a network. The silk is no doubt protective…from sun, from wind, from herbivores, and the silk has an extra surprise role in the environment: “Wool Carder Bees” (Anthidium maculifrons in the present case) harvest the “wool” and use it to “feather” their nest.
3. Today’s flower belongs to a complicated complex of intergrading variants where lines separating distinct species are tough to discern. The different members of the complex have different appearances, different habitats, and even different chromosome numbers.
That is all well and good, but the reason it deserves attention tonight is its surprising floral visitors, mosquitoes.
Here is a very short video clip of one “going at it” today: CLICK
Not much is known about the topic of mosquitoes and flowers, but it is known that some are “nectar robbers,” borrowing floral nectar without effecting pollination, and others do transfer pollen in exchange for the sip. Biologists have suggested that the mosquito apparatus and ability to suck blood perhaps evolved from the apparatus and ability to suck nectar.
Photos taken today show a little pollen on the flower-visiting skeeter, so, well, maybe he/she helps the plant.