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Thread: salvia/sage

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
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    Walton Co., GA
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    Default salvia/sage

    We have at least three colors of salvia in our garden: purple, pink, and red. Bees love them, but I'm curious as to why they all go to the base of the flower to forage, outside of the petals. Are they biting into the sepal to get into the pistil or what? Humingbirds also like them, but poke their beaks down the throat of the flowers.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
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    Default Re: salvia/sage

    You might find that the throats of the flowers are too long for the bees to reach but perhaps the salvias produce some nectar between the sepal and the petal.

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: salvia/sage

    I don't have personal knowledge of whether sage fits this category, but some flowers are the wrong size for certain bees to enter the flower and collect nectar in a normal fashion.

    In some cases, bumblebees puncture a lower part of the flower so they can access the nectar, and then honeybees use that same puncture to also collect nectar. Here is a reference:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=TD0...eybees&f=false

    You may be seeing honeybees using punctures in the base of the flowers originally made by a different species.
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  4. #4
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    Default Re: salvia/sage

    That's interesting, thanks for the reference.

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Morro Bay, California, USA
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    Default Re: salvia/sage

    Quote Originally Posted by Wallroad View Post
    We have at least three colors of salvia in our garden: purple, pink, and red. Bees love them, but I'm curious as to why they all go to the base of the flower to forage, outside of the petals.
    The large genus is Salvia is famous in botanical research for highly evolved pollination specificity. Many Salvia have a "lever mechanism" that blocks entrance to the nectar reward unless the bee or hummingbird species is the correct weight and has the correct tongue or bill length. Naturally Hummingbird pollinated Salvia are often selected for the garden because they are more "showy" than the bee pollinated group.

    Your bees are likely taking advantage of robbing holes chewed in the base of the flowers. Honeybees don't do the chewing in most cases (the yellowjackets, etc are more energetic), but don't pass up the opportunity to steal a reward.

    This is illustrated by a diagram of honeybee pollination on the European field sage Salvia pratensis -- note how tongue length, mechanical block to the head, and very precisely placed pollen are combined in the Salvia pollination system. The lower flower lip and lever system are carefully counterweighted to trip when the correct pollinator arrives.



    Karen and Verne Grant, celebrated California botanists from the 1960's, published a paper exploring why two shrubby species of sage could coexist in California, when they freely hybridize. The discovered that the pollinators are blocked by a tripping mechanism that changes the flower tube shape after the visit. Note that California native bees range in size over several orders of magnitude, and only one species of bee pollinates each species of Salvia.



    A paper on the very specific native solitary bee -- and their co-ordinate Mint family pollination systems for multiple species of plants in the eastern mediteranean was published:
    Pollination Ecology of Labiatae in a Phryganic (East Mediterranean) Ecosystem
    Theodora Petanidou and Despina Vokou
    American Journal of Botany
    Vol. 80, No. 8 (Aug., 1993), pp. 892-899

    Other Cites:
    Mechanical Isolation of Salvia apiana and Salvia mellifera (Labiatae)
    Karen A. Grant and Verne Grant
    Evolution
    Vol. 18, No. 2 (Jun., 1964), pp. 196-212

    New Insights into the Functional Morphology of the Lever Mechanism of
    Salvia pratensis (Lamiaceae)
    MARTIN REITH1,*, GISELA BAUMANN1 , REGINE CLAßEN-BOCKHOFF2
    Annals of Botany 100: 393–400, 2007
    doi:10.1093/aob/mcm031


    There are >600 species of Salvia in the New World. A 55 page catalog of their pollination systems (and 230 reference cites) describe bird (several genera), bee (many species), butterfly, long-tongued fly and more.

    POLLINATION SYNDROMES OF NEW WORLD SALVIA SPECIES WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO BIRD POLLINATION
    Petra Wester and Regine Claβen-Bockhoff
    Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden
    Vol. 98, No. 1 (April 2011), pp. 101-155
    Published by: Missouri Botanical Garden Press
    Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41238116
    Last edited by JWChesnut; 11-21-2013 at 10:43 AM.

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