Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is in bloom on the dry ridges and steep slopes around Sewanee.
Its closed blooms look like piped icing:
And open to reveal purple and pink within:
The center of each flower has a pollen-receiving pad, the stigma, surrounded by ten filaments that curve out from the center. At each filament’s tip is an anther, a little purple pouch of pollen. These anthers are lodged inside pockets at the edge of the flower. The filament elongates as it grows and pushes against this pocket. When a bee lands on the flower, the anther is jostled out of its pocket and the tension in the filament causes the anther to spring upward, slapping the bee with a dusting of pollen. You can mimic this action by prodding the anthers with a small twig. The pollen shoots out for several inches. Very amusing, I find. If no bee or human comes along, the anthers will eventually rise up and dust the stigma with pollen, ensuring fertilization.
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