Flower Power: Why flowers are vital to our lives
I’m almost sure that the last time you put your socks on, bit into a slice of pizza, munched on some popcorn, or relished a mouthful of cool, refreshing orange juice, the last thing on your mind was the power of flowers.
Flowers? Yes, flowers!
The surprising fact is that many essential items in our daily lives are brought to us courtesy of the power of flowers, to produce what may seem like ordinary things such as cotton socks and T-shirts, popcorn, orange and apple juice, or cheddar cheese (indeed, there is a connection!). Little thought is often given, however, to the fact that these ordinary items are the end result of the extraordinary process of flower pollination. In fact, the vast majority of the food, fiber and fuel humans rely on can be traced back to flower pollination.
Trancing through the tulips
Although tulips are more commonly prized for their blooms than for their contribution to food, fiber or fuel, tulips are among the many flower types which are pollinated by animal activity. Other animal-pollinated flowers include squash, cucumber, melon, okra, kiwi, apple, cherry, sunflower, avocado, plum, almond, raspberry, blackberry, pear… the list goes on. And although bees and butterflies are among the most commonly known animal pollinators, ants, fruit bats, and humming birds also play a role in flower pollination.
Saved by the wind
In addition to animal-pollination, many flowers essential to our food, fiber, and fuel resources are self-pollinated or wind-pollinated, and this is where the connection between cheddar cheese and flower power comes in. Animals that are raised for milk and cheese production, are fed plant-based diets including forages such as ryegrass or bahiagrass, or grain such as corn, barley and oats. Producing these animal feeds relies on wind pollination and flower power. Some plants produced for fuel/fiber/paper such as pine, as well as nuts e.g. pistachio, pecans and walnuts, also rely on wind-pollinated flower power.
Power to the flower
So remember, the next time you munch on your favorite snack or put on your favorite T-shirt, pause for a moment of mindfulness as homage to the power of the flower, which made it all possible.