Pollinator fly on spicebush bloom

Sunday, March 18, 2012

This image shows a pollinator fly enjoying the sweet taste of nectar inside the flower of a spicebush. In early spring when woodland plants begin to bloom, insects such as bees, moths, gnats and flies pollinate plants by feeding on nectar. This activity is mutually beneficial to both plant and insect. The plant achieves pollination of its flowers by providing nectar and the insect gets a much-needed high-energy meal.

The spicebush is a native North American woody plant whose limbs are green near the end. It is deciduous in Southeast Missouri. Its fruits are green until maturing to a ripe bright red in autumn.

Many songbirds such as thrushes and robins eat the ripe fruit by swallowing it whole. Each fruit has one rather large seed that is not digested by the bird but is often regurgitated and dispersed elsewhere.

If you are lucky enough to find a wild spicebush, rub a leaf between two fingers or scratch a live limb with your fingernail. Then smell your finger. You will understand by the pleasant spicy aroma why it is called spicebush.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the Painted Wren Gallery.

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