Nature abhors a vacuum, we are told. Life finds its way into every nook and cranny. It isnt only spatial nooks and crannies but also temporal ones. Many vital activities go on after the sun sets and before it rises the next day. We are familiar with the plants that bloom during the day. What about the ones that bloom at night? And, just as interesting: what about the ones that take advantage of those in-between times, dawn and dusk?
We have discussed night blooms a couple of times in this blog. There is so much more that it is worth covering the subject once again. Let us include the times between day and night, crepuscular hours. Dont you love the word? These are the hours just before sunrise, dawn, and after sunset, dusk. Some flowers and their pollinators specialize in one or the other of these periods.
Most pollinators wait for the sun to shine. They need, not just the bright light, but also the warmth to get their flying muscles going. The flowers that attract them wear the colors most visible in these circumstances, in bright contrast with the foliage that surrounds them. After the sun goes down a whole new set of rules enters into play. Bright colors are useless, but white or pale cream are the colors of choice for night blooms. The sense of smell becomes more important than ever. This is why the nocturnal garden is so rich in delightful scents. Dont you love it that it appeals to your nose as well as to your eyes?
The primary nocturnal and crepuscular pollinators are creatures of the night like moths and bats. But, did you know that a few bees have become nocturnal as well? Mostly, they are species that live in hot and dry places.
Among the moths, the best known pollinators are hawkmoths, large moths that can hover in front of flowers, unfurl their long tongues and drink from large, tubular flowers like Datura, Nicotiana, four-o-clock, and morning glories. They usually come back every evening to the same flower patch in search of food. So if you see them once. You may want to sit in your garden chair again and again, same time, same place, and be treated with their repeated appearance. Many smaller moths also visit night blooms, but we dont know much about them.
Many nocturnal flowers remain open during the day, but they dont produce so much nectar at that time. Although they get visitors day and night, studies show that night pollinators are more effective. Probably, the nocturnal flower and its pollinator are fine tuned.
Bats are also important nocturnal pollinators. Many cacti take advantage of them. These plants satisfy the demands of such large pollinators with large flowers and copious nectar.
Adding night blooming plants to the native plant garden enriches the biodiversity of plants and pollinators and it also enriches our lives by stimulating our senses.
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