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Nature Notebook – Bog Bean

An early spring bloomer is gracing the demonstration “bog” by the center’s front door. The buck bean or bog bean is an indicator species for fen wetlands but also grows in bogs or shallow water along the edges of ponds or lakes.

The wide-spreading rhizomes of bog bean can form large colonies. The sight of countless white, delicately fringed flowers is quite spectacular.

The flower stalks are tall enough to stand well above the water line and safely entice bumblebees and other bees to visit. To ensure cross-pollination the plant has two flower forms. One has a long style (the “pollen catcher”) and short stamens (the “pollen holders”) and the other type has a short style and long stamens. The long-stamened flowers’ pollen can only fertilize the long-styled flowers. The same is true for the short stamens and styles.

It is thought that the fringe (hair-like structures) is a deterrent to small insects looking for a nectar treat. Their small bodies are not capable of transporting the pollen from flower to flower so they cannot provide the needed pollination work. No work, no treat.

The seed pods produced after fertilization resemble bean pods leading to the common name.