Friday, July 13, 2007

Afternoon Delight

We have quite a few wild raspberry (Black Raspberry, if we identified it right) bushes on Prospect Hill, and we reap the rewards as often as we can. In an earlier post I gave my rudimentary lesson about botany, and these plants expand on that.

Black RaspberriesBlack raspberries growing wild in our yard,
and a chance to use the "supermacro" camera setting.

As the above photo shows, some of the berries are dark, plump, and inviting, while the others are red, scrawny, and not very appetizing. Still other berries in the same cluster are past ripe, starting to rot on the vine. Obviously, not all of the berries are ready for eating at the same time, which is odd, since the flowers emerged all at the same time.

Turns out, this is a very clever strategy the plant uses to keep seed dispersers coming back and collecting more seed to disperse. It attracts pollinators (butterflies, bees) all at once by flashing out all of the flowers at once: it's best to get a lot of pollinators mingling all at once so there is a lot of mixing of genetic material.

SpiderA spider sets up to trap any unsuspecting, but adequately sized, pollinators
visiting the raspberry flowers. And another chance to use "supermacro."

But the fruits develop at different rates, providing a resource for frugivores (fruit eaters) for a longer period of time. This gives a wide variety of animals time to come and gorge, then disperse the seeds in new places at different times. Chances are, some of those seeds will find a suitable place to grow next season. Brilliant!

Of course, while all of that intricacy isn't lost on us, we still like the simpler things in life: even a partially-filled bowl goes a long way when topping ice cream, stirred into yogurt, or eaten right off the vine.

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