Bumblebee Puzzles

Dutchman's Breeches, certainly one of the more distinctively shaped spring ephemerals, is a flower I've know since childhood and is practically unmistakable. However, I still find the common name to be rather odd, though of course I can see the resemblance to some long-ago Dutchman's laundry, pairs of puffy pants hung upside-down on a clothesline. There are other common names, some good, some bad: white hearts, eardrops, butterfly banners, kitten breeches and staggerweed, the last having to do with the toxicity of the leaves. Knowing, now, that this curiously shaped flower requires a specialist pollinator, the long-tongued bumblebee Bombus bimaculatus or Two-spotted Bumblebee, maybe they could be called Bumblebee Puzzles or Bumblebee Trinkets?

Like other spring ephemerals, Dutchman's Breeches bloom early, soon after the snow has left the forest floor. The plants also disappear quickly, both flower and leaf, as the forest canopy fills in, spending the entire summer as dormant bulbs.

The seeds of Dutchman's Breeches and their dispersal are interesting as well. The seeds each have an edible appendage called an elaiosome. Ants gather these seeds. After they eat the elaiosome they discard the seed in their nest debris where some eventually germinate. This process of seed distribution by ants is called myrmecochory. Don't ask me to pronounce that.

Publicado por scottking scottking, 14 de abril de 2017

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scottking

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Abril 13, 2017 03:24 PM CDT

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Dutchman's Breeches
Cowling Arboretum
Northfield, Minnesota

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