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Is our love of double flowers hurting pollinators?



July 31, 2015
Vibrant double pomegranate.

Vibrant double pomegranate.

For centuries plant breeders have been developing double flowering varieties of just about every plant you can name – roses, camellias, daisies, impatiens……But did you know that double flowers are bad for┬ápollinators like bees?

Double flowers arise as a genetic abnormality, often called a ‘sport’. The double-flowering mutation changes what are normally pollen-laden stamens into many small petals, giving the flower a very pleasing ‘full’ look. The absence of the bright yellow stamens also creates a┬ámonochromatic flower which many gardeners prefer, as the combination of the yellow colour of the pollen and the petal colour are not always as soft or harmonious as we’d like.



But, of course, if a plant doesn’t produce flowers with stamens and pollen, then there’s no food source for pollinating insects like bees, or honey-eating birds. Sometimes there are still very small pollen-covered stamens at the base of the flower but there so many fluffy petals in the way that the insects still can’t get at them.

RoseSo if you want to promote pollinator health in your garden, it’s not just a matter of growing your favourite flowers. You need to embrace some yellow in your garden and look for the simple, open-style flowers that have lots of stamens, which are often the original species), and avoid those cultivars that have been breed to produce only double flowers.

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