Match Flower and Pollinator

When a pollinator favors a certain flower type, it is because both partners have traits that work well together. In fact, there are often several sets of corresponding traits that reinforce the relationship, bringing pollinators back again and again to their favorite flowers.

Related Content:
Visit our Flower Traits Slideshow to learn more about why pollinators visit certain flowers.


Look at the flowers and pollinators below. Do you notice any traits that would make a good pair?

Click on the pollinator and flower headings below to learn more about the pollinators and flowers. Drag each pollinator to the flower it is most likely to visit.

Here are a few questions to consider when making your matches:

  • Can the pollinator reach the flower's nectar or pollen?
  • Does the pollinator need a place to land while it feeds?
  • Will pollen stick to the pollinator? Does it need to?
  • Can the pollinator detect the signals (like color or scent) produced by the flower?
  • Will the scent produced by a flower be appealing to the pollinator?



- Feed at night
- Strong sense of smell

- Clumsy flier
- Often eat flower parts in addition to pollen

- Large and strong
- Fuzzy body
- Can't see red

- Long, straw-like mouthpart (proboscis)
- Good sense of smell
- Can see red

- Strong sense of smell
- Drawn to decaying material to lay eggs

Hawk Moth
- Feed at night
- Strong sense of smell
- Straw-like mouthpart (proboscis) up to 12 inches long

- Thin body with small hairs
- Great sense of smell
- Can't see red

Honey Possum
- Extremely long tongue
- Good climber with grasping tail

- Poor sense of smell
- Can see red

- Require a perch
- Can see red



Allegheny Monkeyflower
- Partially closed petals
- Pollinator must open the flower to reach nectar

- Sticky Pollen
- Sweet Scent

Bird of Paradise
- Nectar-rich
- Flowers emerge from a sturdy casing
- Pollinators stand on the casing while they feed

Candlestick Banksia
- Sturdy flowers
- Sticky pollen
- Nectar-rich

Darwin's Orchid
- Store nectar at base of a very long tube
- Very fragrant, especially at night

- Sturdy flowers
- Tough, rubbery petals

- Nectar-rich
- Sweet scent

- Abundant pollen that is smooth and lightweight

Red Trillium
- Odor resembles rotting meat
- No nectar

Saguaro Cactus
- Fragrant flowers
- Nectar-rich
- Bloom at night

Scarlet Monkeyflower
- Nectar-rich
- Little/no scent

In nature, some of these flowers may be visited by several different types of pollinators. This activity shows the most common pairs.

Photo Credits

Hawkmoth: Specimen Collection, Natural History Museum of London

Honey possum: photo by Don Bradshaw, University of Western Australia