Cool Pollination Strategy

daisy This daisy and its relatives in the Aster Family have it figured out when it comes to pollination strategy. The myriad tiny yellow disk flowers (“florets”) in the center of this roadside inflorescence stagger their maturation: those on the outside of the disk mature first, followed by those inside, leaving those in the very center to mature last. Also, the florets function as males first, then as females. So in this photo the ones on the very outside are functionally female, those just inside them functionally male, and those in the middle still in bud.

The beauty of this system is with the pollinators. When a bee first lands on a daisy, it will search for nectar in the outer florets, brushing off pollen onto their receptive pistils from the daisy previously visited. Then the bee will move toward the center of the disk, dusting itself with pollen from the male flowers, before it flies off to the next daisy to leave that pollen on its female florets.

Bees stick “loyally” to one type of flower at a time, because once they’ve learned where a flower hides its nectar they don’t want to waste time learning about another type of flower if they don’t have to. That way pollen is carried from daisy to daisy to daisy, much more efficient for the plants than if a pollinator went from daisy to sage to rose to violet to daisy.

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