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Reflected Light Digital Image Gallery

White-Flowered Weed

The angiosperms, or flowering plants, are highly diverse, evolving during the Cretaceous period (130 to 90 million years ago) into more than 270,000 species. Insect pollinators coevolved with this plant group, and gave them a reproductive advantage over their ancestors, which depended upon wind transportation of their pollen.

While blue, violet, or pink flowers are typically favorable to butterfly pollination, and brilliant reds are conducive to hummingbird activity, flowers that open during the day and are white, particularly those with bilateral (versus radial) symmetry, are most often bee pollinated. Some flowering plants that appear white to the human visual system are perceived in ultraviolet wavelengths by insect optic systems, guiding the insect to a reward of pollen or nectar. Apparently, bees and other pollinating hymenopterans incorporate a search image for bilateral flowers that signals the insect that this type of blossom is suitable for bee pollination, and is likely to offer the desired reward.

This small, unidentified herbaceous flowering plant, found in Tallahassee, Florida during the late spring, was doing its best to attract an insect pollinator to its open flowers. Whether it is a native or introduced species, this urban plant offers some beauty to the urban landscape of sidewalks, paved roads, and manicured turf. What is beautiful to a young child picking a miniature bouquet may be considered an unwanted weed by the maven of a perfect lawn or the greens keepers of the urban golf course. According to Webster's dictionary, a weed is an undesirable plant growing wild, especially one growing on cultivated ground. What is one person's weed is just another's marvel of nature.

Contributing Authors

Cynthia D. Kelly, Thomas J. Fellers and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.


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