The Secret Life of Flowers

By Eve Pranis

Many announce their presence with bold and vibrant hues, while others remain modest and drab. Some are simple and open in form, but others feature tricky entries or convoluted mazes. They have long inspired humans with their beauty and fragrances, and we've bestowed them with symbolic meanings. Myths and symbolism aside, the real job of flowers is to ensure that plants produce offspring. Animals can roam about and seek mates with whom to reproduce, but imagine the challenge for a plant, rooted firmly to the ground, to achieve this same end. Over millions of years, flowers have evolved a remarkable range of strategies to guarantee that male pollen is transferred to female flower parts so fertilization and seed production can occur. Relying on wind to move pollen, as grasses and many trees do, is the oldest method of ensuring pollination. But a more efficient -- and fantastic -- means is by luring unsuspecting animal partners to inadvertently make the transfer as they search for food. In this indispensable partnership, flowers and pollinators are utterly dependent on one another for survival. So, in turn, are we.

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