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.

Instructions:

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

Click on the pollinator and flower titles 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?

Pollinators

Pollinators


Bat
- Feed at night
- Strong sense of smell

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

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

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

Fly
- 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

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

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

Hummingbird
- Poor sense of smell
- Can see red

Sunbird
- Require a perch
- Can see red

Flowers

Flowers


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

Almond
- 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

Magnolia
- Sturdy flowers
- Tough, rubbery petals

Phlox
- Nectar-rich
- Sweet scent

Ragweed
- 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


APA format:

Genetic Science Learning Center. (2018, January 22) Match Flower and Pollinator. Retrieved November 02, 2019, from https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/flowers/matchflowerpollinator/

CSE format:

Match Flower and Pollinator [Internet]. Salt Lake City (UT): Genetic Science Learning Center; 2018 [cited 2019 Nov 2] Available from https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/flowers/matchflowerpollinator/

Chicago format:

Genetic Science Learning Center. "Match Flower and Pollinator." Learn.Genetics. January 22, 2018. Accessed November 2, 2019. https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/flowers/matchflowerpollinator/.