The Cactus Patch
Volume 14       December 2011      Number 12

Pollination & the Past
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On the 14th of October I went with Polly and Anne to their 50th Hi School Reunion (BHS) reception at Luigi’s.  The food was great, but we only knew a couple of people.  The next evening there was a reunion dinner at the Petroleum Club.  The view was great – we watched the sun set on Bakersfield- , we were entertained by present day cheerleaders, the food was fabulous, and the speeches were incomprehensible.

On the 21st Yolanda Ayala, who leads our exercise group Silver Sneakers, was guest speaker at GEMS, a group for oldsters at the Olive Drive Church.  We went along as part of the demonstration.  We heard some gasps of amazement when we finished and announced that was only the warm up to our hour-long sessions.

On the 29th we went to the Native Plant Society sale at CSUB.  I bought a Dudleya cymosa (the only succulent offered) and a young desert willow.  A number of people looked at the succulent garden.  We really do need a plaque to identify ourselves. We noticed a hummingbird feeding on the tubular yellow flowers of the wild tobacco rather than the red flowers of the aloes.  So much for color preferences!

I found a good article on pollinators in the Oct- Dec. BayNature (SF Bay magazine) by Michael Ellis, a naturalist.  He says:

Flowering plants have evolved to maximize pollination.  Some are pollinated by wind, water, bats, and birds, but by far insects are the commonest vectors.  Plants have evolved showy flowers full of nectar and extra-tasty pollen to entice insects.

Plants have methods for making sure insects find their way to the Promised Land.  Just shine a blacklight on a flower to see it revealed as a honeybee sees it.  There are suddenly incredibly obvious floral tracks that resemble runway landing lights, which guide the insect clearly.  Some flowers even have pollen grains that glow in ultraviolet light.

Birds, on the other hand, can see both ultraviolet and red.  Consequently flowers that are pollinated by birds (usually hummingbirds in the New World and sunbirds in the old) are usually red or at least brightly colored.  Birds’ eyes have at least four types of light-receptive cones (compared to our three) and have much richer color vision than we do, aiding in orientation, food gathering, and mate selection.

My brother Robert sent me a number of pictures of Cacti in his garden in Rosedale.  One shows bees on a day blooming cereus.  Another shows wasps nesting on a cholla.  I wonder why they need more protection than just their stings.

I ran into another non-pollinator at our house.  While changing the water I fell into a sedum bush, landing with the sprinkler on top of me.  As I staggered into the house dripping wet, Polly said, “Where did you find that?”  It seems a very large preying mantis had been hiding in the sedum.  It had a very fat abdomen and was probably female.  It resembled the fat sedum leaves.

The evening of the 29th we went to a production of Wrinkles, a musical production featuring people over 55.  It was modeled after the shows in Fresno.  It was a good beginning, but they need to work on sound balancing.  Despite mikes, some were quite audible, but others very difficult to hear.  An old BC acting colleague of mine, Hank Webb, was one of the four narrators.

On the 3rd of November we heard Peter Beiersdorfer of Livermore speak on South Africa at the Fresno meeting.  It was an interesting talk with lots of animal shots as well as some succulents.  On the 8th, of course, we were at the Bakersfield meeting to hear Maynard’s talk on how succulents are grouped.  As I commented, it was a basic beginner’s arrangement.  As I have learned, there are endless books on the subject and one can spend a lifetime learning more.

Finally, on the 11th we went to Harper’s Bizarre opening.  It was an eclectic mix of antiques and collectibles and a number of succulents were on display.  A group from the BCSS added to the crowd.

Dick Porter, Anne & Polly @ Reunion

Wasps on Cholla

Bees on Cereus

Harper's Bizarre

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