Darwin: The Flower


The main part of Darwin’s writing that really stuck with me is how he talked about flowers. This may seem like a very odd thing to say, however, I feel like his piece about flowers and the reproduction of them stuck with me most because it intrigued me. Reading about how Darwin explains, or questions whether or not flowers generally self-fertilize, then bringing the bees into the equation is something he wrote that did not bore me. I cannot fully explain why I am so interested in his theory, or explanation for how inter-crossing and reproduction in flowers work, but that I am. Especially when Darwin said, “So necessary are the visits of the bees to papilionaceous flowers, that I have found, by experiments published elsewhere, that their fertility is greatly diminished if these visits be prevented” (186). I think I found this most interesting because of how Darwin made the bees seem important, by acknowledging how important they are to flower reproduction. Even if he did not mean too, maybe I am looking from a naturalist view, but bees are very important, and the fact that their numbers are declining is sad.

Another part of the flower reproduction that I found fascinating is how flower inter-crossing most likely did not start happening until man came in and started planting different types of flowers near each other. Darwin did say, “…it is well-known that if very closely-allied forms or varieties are planted near each other, it is hardly possible to raise pure seedlings, so largely do they naturally cross” (186), which makes sense because bees are a contributing factor to flower fertilization, and they do not care if the second flower is not a descendant of the first. Also, if I read Darwin correctly, there is the realization that flowers can be of both sexes, but cannot fertilize themselves, in some cases. An example he gave is how he was growing flowers in his garden, and they would not be visited by insects, and so in order to grow more of this particular flower, he had to manually take pollen from one flower and place it upon the stigma of another. Concluding that just like an other species man comes across, we always manage to control or moderate how they survive beside us.

Darwin, Charles. “On the Origin of Species (1859).” Thomas F. Glick, David Kohn. Charles Darwin On Evolution. Inianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1996. Print.

2 Thoughts.

  1. I really liked reading your blog post on Darwin and flowers! So much of Darwin’s work is centered around evolution or types selection in animals (including people), it was refreshing to read about a topic we didn’t get to address much in seminar or lecture. We probably have a lot to thank Darwin for on the subject- with the increasing numbers of dying bees and their vital role in the reproduction of plants, which in turn affects the rest of the food chain, it’s important to bee (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) aware of the problem and do what we can to help the bees and, in doing so, the rest of our planet.

  2. I guess I tend to focus on animals when I think of Darwin, just because many of his most famous examples are of animals (e.g., the finches & mocking-thrushes on the Galapagos), but of course his view does apply to plants as well. How plants develop mechanisms for stopping self-pollination, as he discusses here, is really interesting. He also says on p. 187 that sometimes the parts with pollen (anthers of flowers) are mature before the stigma is, and sometimes vice versa, so that the stigma can only really receive pollen from some other plant, not from itself. I have often wondered how this works, when flowers have pollen–how do they get pollinated from some other plant and not themselves? Darwin describes a couple of ways in which that happens, which I, too, find interesting!

    On another note, can you activate a plugin that allows those who make comments to check a box to get an email if anyone responds to their comments? Otherwise, the commentator would have to remember to check back to your blog to see if you or anyone else responded (and most of us aren’t going to remember to do that!). When you’re logged into your site, go to the dashboard and find “plugins” on the left menu. Then find one called something like “subscribe to comments,” click “activate,” and you should be good to go!

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