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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Is there a Botanist in the house?

I've always had an abundance of blue flax (Linum usatissimum) growing in the garden because the seed is one of the ingredients in some packets of wild bird seed. It's such a pretty plant. Then I discovered that there is a white variety and, being fond of white flowers, I sent away to Chiltern Seeds for a packet. They're very pretty too but what struck me as unusual is that the pollen on the ends of the stamens is blue! I've never come across a flower with blue pollen before. I thought it was always yellow.

The top photo is one I took of a white flax flower showing the blue covered stamens. This photo is the last in a long line of attempts to get a proper close-up! When I was photographing outside, the flower is so delicate that it fluttered in the slightest breeze so I had to pick one to take inside. Even then, the closer I got the zoom lens kept prodding the flower! Eventually, this photo didn't turn out too badly and you can just see the blue on the stamens.

The gorgeous photo beneath it (courtesy of Bienenwabe at shows the common blue flax and it too has blue pollen! All the years this little flower has been growing in my various gardens and I've never noticed this feature!

This is Bacopa Snowtopia, a fantastic trailing plant we have growing in baskets and containers. I took this just to illustrate my previous misconception of all flowers producing yellow pollen. This was what I took for granted all white flowers looked like until I encountered the flax flower.

I wonder why the flax should have blue pollen. My thoughts turned to the bees I've seen with yellow dusted bodies as they visit flowers for nectar and I realised that I've never seen a blue- coated bee, which led me to thinking that bees musn't visit the flax flowers......... which in turn led me to think that other insects must pollinate them and, if so, which ones? And is that the reason for the blue pollen? Because it's designed to attract a particular insect? Where's Columbo when you need him?!

I will now be watching the flax flowers constantly for visiting insects (unless it's our garden fairies going round with a paint brush during the night), as well as doing lots of googling and possibly emailing eminent professors at universities throughout the U.K.! Unless you already know, in which case I would love to hear from you.

Just when you thought I'd finished, there's a second mystery I've been pondering on. I took quite a lot of photographs of the flax plants in the garden. Look at the flower in the centre of the photo below. Those aren't spots on the petals but tiny holes, perfectly formed with no ragged edges, and one on the tip of each petal! I just noticed it this morning so I haven't had time to look for others with similar perforations, but will do so.

Unless those fairies have been up to their tricks again, there must be a logical explanation. This time I can't even hazard a guess. I'd love to know if anyone can come up with any possible answers, no matter how bizarre the speculation!


  1. I love those little flowers!

    BTW, that lovely strand of beach in Shoal Bay Beach, Anguilla. My favorite beach destination!

  2. Hi Cg. :) Yes they're lovely and self-seed round the garden without being invasive.

    I googled the beach at Anguilla and saw gorgeous photos of it. No wonder it's your favourite holiday destination!

  3. Hi Lesley,

    You are the botanist here. LOL!

    What a love garden you have and I feel so relaxed looking at your flowers and reading your musings why they have some blue pollens and holes in the petals.

    I'd like to believe that they were works of fairies. That explanation is more relaxing to accept. LOL!

  4. Hi Ss. :) Yes it's a lovely thought about the fairies and easier to understand than all that pollination milarkey! I think between us we've solved it. :D

  5. These are wonderful photos you share with us. You are wonderful at writing about your garden experience. THank you for sharing. I can't wait to follow you through the summer on blogger.
    Happy Summer garden time new Friend.

  6. Hello Bren! :) Thank you for those lovely compliments..... you made my day!