Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mountain Laurel Launchers

The mountain laurel undergrowth out on our mountains is in full bloom right now.

Mountain laurel patches are difficult to walk through, but this time of year I can appreciate that pesky undergrowth because of its beautiful blossoms.

Of course, I am also fascinated with the mountain laurel's pollination system.  I am always amazed when I see a flower's ten stamens all bent over, locked in, and waiting to catapult its pollen at a bee. 

The booby-trap is set.
When a bee touches those spring-loaded stamens, they "fire" the pollen.  You could say that the flowers sucker the bees in to face the "firing" squad for a bit of nectar.

 Here we set off one catapult.  The curled up stamen launched the yellow string of pollen that is flying through the air in the upper left of the picture (between the two flowers).

Here several of the stamens fired and plastered the stick with pollen.

Most of the year mountain laurel is just a mess, but when I look at those locked in pollen launchers, I have to say that mountain laurel is lovely enough to live with.
A ring of "fire!" in each flower.
Ten mountain laurel launchers per flower.
Ten bee blasters.
With all those flowers, I'll bet the bees are having a blast!


  1. Oh Dana, the first photo is so lovely. I cannot go into my woods now until the fall as they are so incredibly buggy.

    Fascinating technique that flower has.

  2. Sybil,
    We only have to slap at a few mosquitoes at a time around here. I have lived "way up north" where to change a roll of film in my camera meant exposing the back of my hands to a hungry horde. Well, you know...

    I feel your "pain".

    Our woods might not be buggy (other than ticks), but we do have rattlers. I posted some pics on my other blog.

  3. WHAT ???? Rattlers ! OK. I'll keep my bugs.

    No poisonous snakes here.

    I'm OK with snakes. Even like them. But fear the deadly kind.

    The ticks are making there way up here and we now have cases of Lyme disease. Lucky us !