One day saw a bird with a long beak and a very long tail sitting on a pretty red protea flower, poking his head into the flower.
“What is that bird doing”? I asked.
My Anina human smiled, sat down and said, “That’s really good question, Stripes”. I was so chuffed that I rolled over on my back and purred.
“All living things need to reproduce – that means making more little plants or animals like themselves. Flowers do this by pollination, fertilisation and germination to grow new plants”.
I pretended I understood all that, but I must have looked confused, so she stroked my head and said, “Let me explain.” I hoped she would, because pollination and germination and the other thing are quite new to a cat, even an eco-cat.
“Flowering plants make pollen, which is like a boy bit, and the pollen has to get together with the girl bit, called the egg, of another flower. Getting the pollen from one flower to another flower is called pollination. The plant has to find someone to spread its pollen from flower to flower and they often use birds to do it.”
“Sugarbirds come to visit the flower because the flower gives them nice sweet nectar. Every time the bird sticks its beak into the flower to get the nectar, some pollen sticks to its head. When it flies off to another flower it takes the pollen with it and drops it on that flower.”
“What happens when the pollen gets to the other flower?” I was getting quite interested in the clever ways of the flowers.
“The pollen then joins with the egg and together they make a seed. This is called fertilisation. The seed will then germinate and a new plant will grow.” She thought a bit and then said, “However, some birds and animals like to eat the seeds before they can grow, so some proteas have evolved a clever way to hide the seeds”.
“There is a little fleshy bit on the seeds that ants just love to eat. So the ants carry the seeds away into their underground nests to store them for another day. The seeds stay happily under the ground where they have been ‘planted’ by the ants until it’s time for them to grow, usually after a fire. Then a brand new protea grows from the seed. We call it germination.”
Anina lifted me off her lap and patted my head. “And that, Stripes, is the story of pollination, fertilisation and germination.”
I couldn’t help thinking about how all things in nature seems to depend on each other. I’m sure there’s a big eco-speak word for that too!
What is the boy bit of the flower?
What is pollination?
What do we call it when a seed starts to grow to make a new plant?
Try to grow some seeds in your garden. Remember to water them!
This story can be printed as a an A5 pamphlet by downloading the pdf file below, printing it back to back on A4 paper (landscape orientation) and then folding in half. -> THE PROTEA AND THE SUGARBIRD CONNECTED A5