Why do Flowers Smell?

As we have said, the flowers that wear pretty dresses or use perfumes don't do it for themselves alone but to please invited guests. Many flowers, for the same purpose, always have on hand during the social season a supply of cookies; others, little jars of honey. Some keep open house, in the matter of the honey-jars, leaving them out where any passer-by can help himself; while others put them in certain rooms to which only particular friends have the key. Some flowers, the poppies, for example, dress in very pretty taste but use no perfume; while others, the roses for example, have both pretty dresses and perfume. Neither of these flowers have any sweets to offer their guests, but both keep on hand an abundance of pollen which the bees take home and stow away in their tiny wax jars in the pantry, so that not only the queen but the rest of the bee folks of their hive can sit in the parlor and have their bread and honey, just as the queen did in Mother Goose; for what the bees call "bee-bread" is really bread and honey, a mixture of the pollen with the honey which the bees make from the nectar of the flowers.


Among the plant people that "keep open house" are those magnificent trees, the Lindens. Their flowers are small and not at all showy but they have a lovely perfume, are wide open and have an abundance of nectar. In the flowering season they simply swarm with bees.

In the case of the Willows the nectar is partly concealed in the short, tube-like corolla, by hairs or scales which act like little locks to keep out certain uninvited guests but can be opened by the bees who carry "keys"; that is to say, the bees have tongues that reach to the bottom of the tubes.

But why should flowers be so particular as to what visitors they entertain? It's because the bees and some other little people, such as butterflies and moths, have flying-machines and, by dressing up for these visitors and serving dainty meats and drinks -- pollen and nectar -- the pollen fairies can ride away on these machines and meet other fairies in other flowers; for the dressed-up flowers haven't any flying-machines of their own as have the pollen-grains of the Pines and the Oaks and others.

In order to produce the best seed, and in the cases of some members of the plant world in order to produce any seeds at all, the pollen-grains must be carried from the stamens on which they are born to the pistil of a flower of the same species. Well, this looks easy enough when, as in so many instances, the pistils and stamens are in the very same flower, side by side. But that's just it -- it's too easy! Mother Nature wants our flower fairy folks to go and get acquainted with little strangers of their own kind; so she usually sees to it that they just do!

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