Saturday, May 19, 2012

The field bindweed: A bright funnel-shaped attractive flower

Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)
Maltese summers are characterized by high temperatures and lack of rain. Many plants survive this difficult time as seeds. This results in a dry brown countryside. Where it not for the thousands of trees that have been planted during the past fifty years or so it would be very difficult to find any green vegetation. 

Few species of plants are able to flower but those that do immediately catch one’s attention. One of these species is the field bindweed (leblieb tar-raba’). This species grows in fields and gardens from early summer to early autumn. It also grows in similar habitats such as patches of soil in centre strips and along roads.

The flowers of this plant can have different colours. They are usually white or pink but can also be striped white and pink. As practically no other plant is in flower the bright funnel-shaped flowers are very conspicuous and often attract one’s attention to their beauty. Flowers come in a variety of colours, shapes, sizes and scent but their beauty is not there to please us but to attract insects especially bees which are essential for pollination. 

The most attractive part of flowers are the petals which induce insects to land on them and to visit the nectaries from which they obtain nectar.

To make it easier for the insects to locate the nectaries, many flowers have lines or other markings called nectar guides which lead the bees to the centre of the flower where the flowers’ reproductive structures are found. 

Some of the guides are visible to humans while others can only be seen in ultraviolet light which is invisible to humans but which bees can detect. The nectar guides make it possible for the bees to collect nectar faster and more efficiently. This is advantageous for the plant because of more efficient pollination. 

This article was published in The Times on 10.08.11

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