In order to reach the San Gerardo Biological Station, one must hike an hour downhill. The hike down is not bad, what’s worse is the hike back up hill. I am happy to report that the hike uphill, while seemingly terrible when thinking about it, is not a bad hike. What’s even more amazing is how every single plant has made it either down or up the hill. Plants cannot move, so in order for animal pollinated plants to be pollinated, their pollinators must go up or down the hill.
Pollinators come in all shapes and sizes. Most people think of pollinators as bees or birds, but there are many more pollinators. For example, bats often pollinate flowers that open at night. Usually these flowers hang upside down on the tree and smell rotten. Some flowers are pollinated by beetles or flies, those flowers are usually small in size, depending on the pollinator. However, other flowers are pollinated by monkeys and other large animals, although that is less common.
In order to learn who pollinates what type of flower, we paired up and went on hikes to find flowers. Once we returned to the station, we had to decide who we thought pollinated each flower. The most difficult part of the activity: there was not a right or wrong answer. Some flowers we said were pollinated by butterflies, but our professor said birds, and we were told that really either answer could be right. Biologists like to place things in boxes, but really, nature has no box. Plants try to attract pollinators with many different things, and do not care whether it is pollinated by a flower or butterfly. (Unless the plant is specialized to a pollinator.)
Pollinators are important in ensuring the survival of plants, and declines in their populations can cause declines in food supply. Their importance cannot be overlooked. Overall, we should appreciate our pollinators for all their hard work, for helping plants survive, and for traveling up and down the hill to reach San Gerardo.
College of Wooster