Friday, August 8, 2014

Hummingbirds and sunflowers...

We often think of hummingbirds sipping nectar from red, tubular-shaped flowers, but if you've ever spent any time around sunflowers, you know they are a favorite of hummers too...

A juvenile male Ruby-throated Hummingbird sips nectar from a disc floret on a sunflower.
...and there is a reason hummingbirds love sunflowers. If you look closely at the center disc of a sunflower (or a black-eyed susan, zinnia, or any other daisy-like flower), you'll find hundreds of tiny tubular shaped flowers (called florets). These little florets are perfect flowers that each contain drops of nectar.

Hummers have precise eye-bill coordination to be able to hover and drink from such a tiny cup!
A happy hummer!

What is a composite flower?
A composite flower looks like one big flower, but it's really an inflorescence (or grouping) of hundreds of tiny flowers called florets. Daisies, black-eyed susans, purple coneflowers, zinnias, asters, dandelions, etc., are all composite flowers.  There are two types of florets in a composite flower:

Ray florets - are located along the perimeter of the flower head and form what look like petals that "radiate" out from the center (which is why they are called rays). Ray florets contain only a pistil (the female reproductive organ).

Disc florets - form the center disc of the flower head. Disc florets have a stamen and a pistil, so they are considered tiny, perfect flowers. Hundreds of disc florets create the flower head.

("Perfect" flowers contain both reproductive organs--a pistil (the female reproductive organs) and stamens (the male reproductive organs; the anthers contain the pollen). Lilies, daffodils, petunias, etc. are perfect flowers.)

Cross-section of a composite flower
When you realize that a composite flower is made up of hundreds of florets, all of which are tiny tubular flowers filled with nectar, it's easy to see why hummingbirds love sunflowers!

When the florets are finished blooming, and the seeds ripen (in the ovary of the pistil), American Goldfinches and Northern Cardinals take over...

An American Goldfinch eats sunflower seeds in the late evening light.

(I photographed these birds in my friend Sarah's beautiful garden.)

17 comments:

Lois Evensen said...

Wonderful images as yours always are. I enjoy reading the information you provide, too. :)

Kerri Farley said...

GREAT post! and AWESOME pics!

rebeccainthewoods said...

Beautiful photos, and a reminder of why we're planning to add sunflowers to our yard next year!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

I love both hummingbirds and sunflowers, so I had to read this post. I wasn't disappointed--lots of interesting information I did not know, and the great shots of hummers.

Steve Willson said...

Hi, Kelly. I just came in from my garden where Hummingbirds and Goldfinches were busily consuming nectar and seeds from my Sunflower thicket and I find you have written about the very thing I was just watching. I especially enjoyed your post today.

Sue said...

Kelly-gorgeous photos and wonderful info. I know those goldfinches are having a fun time in my garden tearing into those seeds.
Enjoy the weekend

sandy said...

great post - informative and beautiful photos.

Bobby Harrison said...

Great Post!

Montanagirl said...

Great post, Kelly. I didn't know Hummers went to Sunflowers. I have just one huge sunflower that I let grow in my flowerbed. I'll have to watch, because I've seen Hummers in the last week.

Roy Norris said...

Superb photography Kelly.

Guy said...

Hi Kelly

A beautiful post. We saw a hummingbird in our yard this weekend and will have go put up a feeder. Normally there are hummingbirds in the foothills around Calgary but not a lot in the city. Looking at your photos I am very excited to see what we can find.

Guy

Elaine said...

Beautiful shots, Kelly! Wish some of those hummers would come further north.....

Elaine said...

Beautiful shots, Kelly! Wish some of those hummers would come further north.....

Cath HC Photographie said...

Very interesting post!
Have a nice day- Cath.

Janice K said...

Your pictures are outstanding, as usual.

I have seen hummers visiting my white hydrangea tree. I guess this explains why they like them too even though their color is white.

Tammie Lee said...

hello Kelly,

thank you for explaining all of this
and
for the beautiful photos
and your sweet sketch

now if only i could remember all these details..... ;-)

E said...

Lovely, very lovely, I love these birds.
Thanks for sharing. Love