Our landscape remains drab with brown and grey colors predominating – thankfully white has disappeared. Although there is a slight green tinge to the ground, mostly annual grasses, nothing more has begun to grow.
Thus I was excited to find spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa) blooming on the rocky, south slopes of Big Valley Mountain. Those mats of pink flowers were such a welcome sight, not only for Leonard and I, but for the few early insects.
Phlox flowers are well modified for pollination by insects with long tongues. The five petals are fused into a long tube.The petal lobes spread out like a platform on which the insects can land. The stamens and stigmas are tucked into the petal tube and as the insects probe in the tube for nectar, pollination is facilitated. A “target” for the insects is delineated by the darker pink-lavender color around the tube opening. Fused sepals (modified flower part on the outer side of the petals) around the tube discourage insects from eating through the delicate petal tube and drinking the nectar without pollinating the flower. The entire flower arrangement benefits both the plant and long-tongued insects.
More information about spreading phlox can be found in a post from last year.
Soon there will be an overwhelming number of plants in bloom. Until then, each new blossom is a source of excitement.
Happy Vernal Equinox!