Sunday, April 27, 2008
Barberry Bush Bops Bees
I would like to say something nice about a shrub that, despite one very cool characteristic, is being cut down as part of the habitat restoration at Mountain Lakes. Barberry is a commonly planted shrub, used as a hedge in many yards. It's generally around 4 feet high, has small leaves and small thorns on its stems. This time of year, it sprouts lots of small flowers, white or yellow.
Back in my college days, we learned in field botany that if you tickle the flower at the base of the filament, the anther will slap against the stigma. All of which is to say that if you take a small leaf blade, stick it into the flower and look closely, you're likely to see a sudden, quick motion.
When a bee pays a visit, its legs probably poke into the flower and trigger the anther to slap against its body, thereby giving the bee a dose of pollen that it will carry along with it to other barberry flowers, thus serving the cause of pollination.
Another interesting aspect of barberry is the bright yellow of its inner wood, which you will discover if you cut it down. Though barberry is not as highly invasive an exotic as multiflora rose in local preserves, it's bad enough to make one wish people wouldn't plant it, and would consider removing it from their properties so there are less seeds to aid its spread into wild areas. In the meantime, the flowers can be entertaining.