Sunday, April 5, 2015

A bit of a stink


Stinking hellebore Helleborus foetidus isn't the most fragrant of plants - certainly not one that you'd want to bring indoors - but it's a great asset in a wildlife garden, providing nectar for the first queen bees that emerge from hibernation in spring.


Long-tongued species, like this buff-tailed bumblebee queen, can reach nectar that's held in modified, tubular petals arranged in a ring around the outside of the stamens, deep inside the flower. The green and purple-edged 'petals' that enclose the bell-shaped flower are actually sepals.


Refuelled with sugary nectar, this bee is about to leave, its wing-tips bending upwards in the effort to lift that large furry body.
























Even when the flowers have been pollinated and the stamens and nectaries fall away the flowers are still attractive to flies, that come to lick nectar residues on the inside of the sepals.


























The flowers also seem to attract these tiny Sepsis flies, that sit on the outside of the sepals and perform their courtship dances, raising and lowering their wings. They breed in dung, which might explain their attraction to stinking hellebore as a courtship arena.




Helleborus foetidus seeds itself around the garden, thanks to the white extension called an elaiosome on the outside of the shiny black seeds.This is very attractive to ants, which carry them away, eat the elaiosome and disperse the seeds, which require a winter of freezing temperatures before they'll germinate. 



8 comments:

  1. Always something to learn from you Phil, thanks as usual.

    That last image is stunning.

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  2. Something else to keep my eyes open for.

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    1. Have a sniff if you find one Adrian - very distinctive pong.

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  3. Wow, a lot of information in that short post, and amazing lovely photos too. Regards to you Phil.

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    1. Thanks Andrea - hope all is well with you!

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Life can become very interesting when you follow where curiosity leads!

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