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Ecology of California Fuchsia - The Hummingbird Pollinated Summer Beauty

Through our virtual programming series, Nature in your Neighborhood, we challenged volunteers to go out into their neighborhoods or backyards to see what plants sparked their interest. Whether plants are native or non native, we can all appreciate a connection to nature and the curiosity that it can spark!

By: Shaashwath Sivakumar

Epilobium canum (Onagraceae) is a perennial flowering shrub native to California, including our own NorCal and San Francisco Bay Area. Red-orange flowers are produced from early June to late November. As a summer/fall-flowering plant with ample nectar, it is an important food source for pollinators and other insect species that are active in the late summer and early fall

For a hummingbird-pollinated plant, California Fuchsias are surprisingly attractive to bees in our gardens. The long, narrow, tubular flowers are built for birds, not for the bees; the latter are excluded from the usual entry. However, bees have figured out that there is a rich nectar source at the base of the flowers. They land on the exterior of the bloom, chew a hole through the tube near its base, and then sip the nectar without providing any pollination service to the plant.

Flowers display evidence of each visitation type: hummingbird pollinators deposit pollen on stigmas, while carpenter bee robbing leaves a characteristic slit or hole in the corolla.

Plant–pollinator relationships are regarded as an iconic example of mutualisms in nature. Flowering plants are visited by pollinators, visitors that consume floral rewards and transfer pollen among flowers, but can also be visited by robbers, which consume nectar rewards without conferring pollination benefit. Nectar robbing can decrease floral longevity, attractiveness to legitimate pollinators and reproductive success.

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