Know those kind of people who hang out with others better looking than themselves so they can get the other person’s cast-offs? This is usually seen at nightclubs and parties where the guy or chick “magnet” does the work of attracting the opposite sex and the “hanger-ons” move in on the magnet’s cast-offs.
As happens in human communities, so it happens in Mother Nature’s. And the Texas Bluebonnet is no exception. They have their own kind of “hanger-ons” and you’ll be surprised to learn who they are.
Indian Paintbrushes. Castilleja indivisa.
Indian Paintbrushes are actually a parasite to the Texas Bluebonnet. They jump on board through the bluebonnet’s root system. Paintbrushes do photosynthesize but they also receive some nourishment from bluebonnets.
But nourishment isn’t the only benefit Paintbrushes receive. Hanging with bluebonnets increases the Paintbrush’s game.
Indian Paintbrushes that parasitize Texas Bluebonnets as opposed to less attractive grasses flower longer, produce more flowers, produce more fruits, and ultimately produce more seeds. Three times as many seeds.
Because Texas Bluebonnets are just so gorgeous! All those beautiful blossoms produce the same effect as their human magnet counterparts. They attract more suitors. Bees.
And just like human hanger-ons, Indian Paintbrushes zero in on the bluebonnet’s cast-offs to meet their reproductive goals.
We gotta hand it to the Paintbrushes. They know how to play the game.
As we admire the scenery, we figure Mother Nature is busy making thousands upon thousands of bluebonnet seeds.
Well … looks can be deceiving.
Texas Bluebonnets, by no fault of their own, can be considered one of nature’s greatest underachievers.
On average, a single Texas Bluebonnet plant has the reproductive potential to produce a little over 1,100 seeds yet in actuality produces only 30 seeds. Yes, that’s what we said. T-H-I-R-T-Y.
It’s not the fault of the bluebonnet plant. In fact when most plants are pollinated they have a pretty good track record for producing seeds. It’s not a fertility problem. All systems are go in that department.
What’s the problem?
Lack of bees.
We’ve all heard about the problems bees have been having in recent years. Bees are the only pollinators of Texas Bluebonnets. If they’re not enough of them to go around, then bluebonnets can’t be pollinated and seeds can’t be produced for future Texans to enjoy.
Think about that the next time you consider killing a bee.