BLOWING IN THE WIND
Glowing with a stirring of early spring sunshine, hazel catkins dance on the breeze and shower sparks of pollen into the sky. At the same moment, two bud-like female flowers, their vivid red tufts visible in the top-centre of Valter Binotto’s award-winning image, await the arrival of this life-generating golden rain.
Hazel is monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers are found on the same plant, although pollen must be transferred between different trees for fertilisation to take place. The male catkins, or inflorescences, hang like clusters of catatonic caterpillars from mid-February (or earlier in more sheltered, lowland areas), appearing ahead of leaves, so the wind can disperse the millions of microscopic pollen grains more easily.
Recent research from the University of Life Sciences in Poland suggests that early emerging bees also play a role in pollination. While catkins don’t actively attract insects with nectar, their structure allows bees to collect pollen from them. The crimson stigmas may then entice bees to land on the female flowers and transfer pollen in the process. And for the bees, hazel pollen provides an important source of energy at a time when there are few available alternatives.
GET INVOLVED Record the appearance of catkins and other signs of spring in the Nature’s Calendar survey http://bit.ly/2j4o2f5
TWO BUD-LIKE, RED FEMALE FLOWERS AWAIT THE ARRIVAL OF THIS GOLDEN RAIN.