Trees, grasses and flowers are the important plant types of natural areas. Of these, flowers are the most diverse group and it’s the pretty, delicate flowers that catch our eye as we walk about.
The purpose of a flower is to make seeds to make another generation of that plant. It is best that pollen from one flower fertilizes another. The pollen can be blown by the wind or it can be carried by one of the hundred or so native bees, other insects, birds and others.
To get insects to do the job, they must be attracted. Thus, many flowers use color or release a chemical odor to attract them. Also, they often offer rewards in the form of protein rich-pollen or sugar-rich nectar to pollinators.
To survive they must also protect themselves. There are thousands of birds, animals, insects, and others looking for something to eat. The most common way of protection is to contain an offensive or toxic chemical.
The chemicals that sometimes make many herbs and spices attractive to us are actually the plants’ insecticides – including nicotine and caffeine. It’s good that we are not insects!
In our natural areas, not all the flowers are desirable; some are weeds! Weeds are usually very prolific plants that crowd out other species.
Many of them are not native to our area and some even come from other continents. They often thrive here because their normal predators are not here. One of our tasks as stewards is to remove the invasive species to free-up space and nutrients for our natives.
A good natural area has flowers blooming throughout the growing season. Thus, pollen and nectar are always available to feed the insects, birds and others.
The two flowers now dominating in West Ridge after the early spring flowers have gone are a Coreopsis and the Black-Eyed Susan. A number of others including Phlox, Boneset, Penstemon are beginning to appear.