April 25, 2009

Mom has her ways

Now that several species of cacti are blooming, I have been wondering why their flowers are so spectacular: large and brilliantly colored. No wall flowers, these: they are out there shouting at the world.

But they are so large, bees would need to be huge to pollinate them, so where do little cacti come from? To add to the precariousness of propagation, the cottontails love eating the flowers and just when the bloom is about to unfold and I am poised to take a picture, the whole flower has been eaten to a nubbin. So much for attracting a pollinator that year.

My discovery of the day: this is where the orioles come in. They are not just here to drink gallons of sugar water and delight us with their gorgeous plumage and beautiful song: they are involved in the cacti cycle. And that is why we don't see them except when the cacti are blooming. Mom Nature does know her stuff.

Here is a picture of a cactus we often ride by. It is clinging to the wall of a steep wash, but it must be happy there or it would not be putting on this beautiful display. Here oriole ..., here oriole ....

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