Tiny Flowers, Tiny Bees

David Trammel's picture

Its almost August and many of my plants are starting to flower, in preparation to seed. The early ones were my Spring greens, my lettuce, kale and spinach. Once the heat kicked in they bolted, growing tall and losing leaves for flowers.

These are some of my Kale plants, which have a gorgeous little white flower.

Now that I am on first shift, I get to relax in my garden in the late afternoon. Its a lot hotter than when I was on third shift and able to relax in the early morning. The shift to a new work time has also made me neglect my garden. I have one raised bed filled with weeds, I never got plants into it.

I was going to pull up the planters with the greens, and try an experiment with carrots in containers. I've been seed starting carrots in the front room for the past month (with mixed results).

Last week, on Thursday, due to a work emergency, I ended up staying over to do an 18 hour shift. Leaving work at midnight, there was no way I was coming back in at work, at 6am, so they gave me Friday off.

After sleeping off my exhaustion, it was Saturday morning before I rose. I made a fresh pot of coffee, and went out to relax in the garden.

Much to my surprise, those tiny flowers had many tiny bees visiting them.

Now this year, I ditched the mix of flower in hanging baskets, to just by Purslane and Portulaca. They are hearty succulents, that do well in heat and are forgiving if you go a few days long with the water. These plants have a large. open flower that honey bees and the big ones, like bumbles and carpenters, love.

I think that we have all been misled by the typical honey bee, to expect that most of this species is large and visible. As I sat there and watch the tiny bees, some no bigger than a grain of rice, flit from flower to flower, I decided that carrots could wait. Or at least find a different container.

We can't only be focused on our wants, our needs.

Green Wizardry and an understanding of systems theory as taught here, means you must sometimes consider allowing a resource to go fallow, and not use it for your own gain, when it benefits another part of the whole system. Those tiny bees are a vital resource. Who am I to deny them their place in my garden?

ClareBroommaker's picture

Mmm, you do see you have a whole bunch of seed pods on your Kale, right? Kale is in the mustard family and those four petalled flowers are typical. The seed pods of mustards are called siliques. At the lower left hand corner, there may be some siliques that are ripe, and you could harvest the seed. The tan siliques just splits open and there are the little round seeds.

There is a radish (also mustard family) called "rattail" whose spicy green siliques are eaten in salad or pickled. I have pickled radish siliques, but just used "ordinary" radishes, like French Breakfast.

Many mustard family plants do well started from seed in mid-summer for a fall harvest. I think my mother always grew kale for autumn, rather than for spring or summer. Maybe your kale seed can sprout right away. I know I plan to sprinkle some mustard greens (Florida Broadleaf is my easy cleaning favorite) for fall this year. They grow much cleaner for me in fall-- no mildew problems as in spring.

But yeah, this is the animal husbandry forum! Those insects are definitely a needed part of nature and our gardens. I've had a few oddball cucumbers this year due to poor pollination. The ony insects I've actually seen on their flowers were a single Mexican bean beetle and a single spotted cucumber beetle. That low count is absolutely abnormal in my garden. Both are destructive of cukes.

David Trammel's picture

Kale as part of the Mustard family.

I got home too late tonight, but I'll get pictures tomorrow. Right next to the Kale is a couple of planters of mustard greens, and they are covered in tiny yellow flowers, of a similar four petal shape. They too seem to be loved by my microbees.

I had noticed the seed pods, one of the reasons I've been letting them flower and go to seed is to harvest them. Didn't know about the dual season. I'll have to get some started and see if I can get plants growing in the empty 2 gallon planters. My tomatos are starting to ripen, so having greens to mix with them would be great.

Most of my herbs and greens are heading towards flowers and seeds. My Romaine lettuce has great tall stalks all covered in prebloom buds. Can't wait to see what they look like.

David Trammel's picture

Here's some pictures

ClareBroommaker's picture

Ahh, aren't they sweet! Just a warning, lettuce seeds will get little bits of fluff that catch the wind as dandelions do. The seed will go flying. But you should be able to remove enough seed to grow it again. All the seeds won't mature at once, as all the flowers don't bloom at once, so that gives you more days to capture some seed. In gardens with a lot of empty space lettuce and mustard with both self seed., though, for me, mustard does so more than lettuce.

Now if you study the plant and its flowers, you will be well on the way to being able to spot wild lettuces. But don't think that every thing that looks like lettuce is edible. If you find a likely candidate, check it against a good i.d. book. In school, we called these GDYCs, (G'damn yellow composites) because they look so much alike. But knowing the garden varieties can help you spot the wild ones.

David Trammel's picture

Here's a picture of the Mustard greens with the Kale. As you can see, same shape and size of blossom, just a gorgeous yellow.

David Trammel's picture

Here's the little lady. Remember, the flower is smaller than a dime in size. Don't recognize the species.

Magpie's picture

It's a small sweat bee in the genus Lasioglossum!