In this activity, students match different types of pollinators to their preferred flowers and discover how pollinators have co-evolved with plants.
Pollinators are attracted to specific features of a flower. The set of flower features that attract pollinators is called the flower's pollination syndrome.
- The shape of many flowers has been adapted to match the shape and size of the pollinator’s body part used to get nectar.
- What time of day or year effects which pollinators are in the area, and will be attracted to it.
- The odour of a given flower is meant to attract a specific pollinator. For example, flies like the smell of decaying food and some plants smell like rotting meat to attract flies.
- All organisms have different visible colour spectrums. The colour of a flower fits the visible spectrum of their specific pollinator.
The flower's pollination syndrome is the result of the set of the flower's features (colour, shape, size, nectar type and odour) that attract pollinators. While there are a range of features that make up a flower's pollination syndrome, the colour preferences of pollinators are an easy way for students to try to match pollinators with their preferred flowers. Here are some general pollinator colour preferences that you can review with your students before they try to match the pollinator cards to the flowers cards:
- Bees are likely to visit yellow, violet or blue flowers.
- Flies prefer brown or purple flowers.
- Butterflies prefer pink flowers.
- Moths prefer white flowers.
- Birds are attracted to flowers that are red, and do not seem to be as attracted by scent.
- Bats are attracted by scent, and most often to flowers that bloom at dusk.
- Note: These are general colour preferences because pollinators can still pollinate a range of colours.
Pollination syndromes are a great example of co-evolution in nature. Pollinators select for specific flowers based on their pollination syndrome and both the flower and pollinator adapt to each other’s changes over time.