Saturday, April 07, 2007


Yes, it's pollen season. After writing about pussy willow catkins (see my last blog below), I got into my car the following day to find the windshield was covered with green pollen. I had parked beneath a birch tree, which was also decked with catkins. I just find it fascinating that catkins are male flower, since I think of flowers as feminine. (Of course they're not.)

Joanna from Minneapolis sent me a comment on the last blog (which I accidentally deleted) saying that she thought I'd like to read The Tree by Colin Tudge. I just reserved it at my library.

Meanwhile, I'm reading Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart. She mentions pollen in the section on Breeding Flowers: "It wasn't until the late 1600s that botanists begin to speculate that pollen might be the equivalent of sperm, but even that notion had its detractors, including a scientist in the early eighteenth century named Johann Siegesbeck who believe that "sex in flowers was not only scientifically unconvincing but morally revolting as well.""

I'm not sure I believe this statement since I know that the 17th century botanist, Linneaus, based his taxonomy of flowers on their sexual characteristics. He often used terms for human sexuality when referring to plants: they were virgins, eunuchs, husbands. Petals became marriage beds and the flower head of the Calendula was described thus: “where the beds of the married occupy the disk and those of the concubines the circumference, the married females are barren and the concubines fertile.”

If you want a peek at the sex lives of flowers, check out this exhibit at the San Francisco Exploratorium:

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