As March progressed and passed, and April followed–our city in full bloom with the flowers of thousands of ornamental trees– already tiny white and pink petals swirl in the wind and gather in the gutters–still a delight.
I’ve selected a few samples from those multitudes of glamorous, ephemeral blooms to peer at and study: 2 cherries, an ornamental plum, a pear (I believe) and a Japanese flowering quince. These plants all belong to the Rosaceae family which has more than 3,000 species under its wing, including representatives from some of our favorite food crops, like pears, apples, peaches, almonds and strawberries.
Kirk & Howes in their book, Plants for Bees, state that cherry is considered second only to apple trees as a nectar producer, and as such, is an important food resource for pollinators. The authors are, of course, speaking of the fruit-producing orchard trees. However, they state that even the ornamental trees are of similar value as bee plants, both for their nectar and for pollen.
Ornamental cherry. This particular cherry has a delicious sweet nectar in the cup of each blossom. The tiny drops taste almost of cherry liqueur. Quite amazing!
This sample below is from a wild cherry from my neighborhood. The leaves of the cherry have tiny red extra-floral nectaries on their stems that look like little bugs at first glance, but they are not, and their purpose has to do with defense against the plant’s enemies, herbivores. Apparently this sweet substance attracts ants, and they in turn, protect the plant from other insects in return for the sweet payment. An interesting symbiotic relationship!
Wild cherry (Prunus avium) The leaves have tiny extra-floral nectaries on the petioles.
The blossoms of this tree are very fragrant. I think it’s a plum tree – the leaves are coppery purple, and there are no horizontal lines on the trunk, like cherry trees have. Kirk and Howes state that bumblebees, honey bees and mason bees gather the plum’s nectar and pollen.
Very fragrant blossoms. Ornamental plum, I think!
The white blossoms of this tree are pungent indeed, and not favorably. Quite smelly actually. I think this might be a Pyrus calleryana? The anthers are a beautiful magenta/purple, but as they mature and dehisce their pale golden pollen, the anthers become dark little ragged ends.
Strong smell, described by one author as akin to rotting fish, but I didn’t find it quite that obnoxious.
Gorgeous red/salmon tones of Japanese flowering quince (Chaenomeles japonica). Apparently bumblebees, honey bees and early solitary bees harvest pollen and some nectar from this shrub.
Amazing number of stamens: 40-60 stamens in each flower, and 5 partially fused styles with 5 stigmas.