February 8th 2014

Snowdrops after rain

Snowdrops after rain

How do Snowdrops use Ants? These beautiful flowers, first recorded in England in the 18th Century, can multiply through their bulbs. However, they also produce seeds covered with an oily substance (elaiosome) which attracts ants. Ants drag the seeds to their nests where they feed the protein-rich elaiosome to their larvae. They then carry the seeds to their waste area which is rich in debris that fertilises the seeds! (Of course this obscure sort of seed dispersal has an equally obscure name-‘myrmecochory’)!                                     I heard a lovely idea the other day. Residents of a local sheltered housing scheme have successfully lobbied to have an edible hedge grown on their boundary- a hedge of gooseberries, currants and raspberries, for themselves, passers by and wildlife to enjoy.                 (In case it wasn’t obvious from yesterday’s photo of female hazel flowers just how small and inconspicuous they are, I’m adding a photo that includes catkins.) Conditions: A windy day, folllowing the recent pattern of sunny spells in the morning with heavy rain through the night. Temperature: Max 8 – Min 4c

Female and male  flowers- the anthers in the male can be easily seen.

Female and male flowers- the anthers in the male can be easily seen (for scale).

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