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Bumblebees and Snapdragons

Snapdragons depend on bumblebees for pollination, as honey bees are not heavy enough to cause the flower lip to open wide.

An assortement of colorful snapdragons.

Photo: Martin LaBar (Flickr)

For centuries, successive generations of children have pressed the sides of Snapdragons to open the Flowers' mouths.

Snapdragons depend on bumblebees for pollination, as honey bees are not heavy enough to cause the flower lip to open wide. Cicely Mary Barker wrote the following lines about this symbiotic process:

Into the Dragon’s mouth he goes;

Never afraid is he!

There’s honey within for him, he knows,

Clever old Bumblebee!

The mouth snaps tight; he is lost to sight

How will be ever get out?

He’s doing it backwards-nimbly too,

Though he is somewhat stout!

Off to another mouth he goes;

Never a rest has he;

He must fill his honey-bag full, he knows

Busy old Bumblebee!

And Snapdragons’ name is only a game

It isn’t as fierce as it sounds;

The Snapdragon Elf is pleased as Punch

When Bumblebee comes on his rounds!

For centuries, successive generations of children have pressed the sides of Snapdragons to open the Flowers’ mouths. The individual flowers are produced on spikes and open from the bottom to the top of each stalk.

Plant breeders have succeeded in producing all colors except blue and many variations in plant heights and flowers shapes. These annuals like full sun, well-drained soil and regular watering. The seed pods look like noses so in some regions one common name is Calves’ Snout, which, although less fierce, is certainly not as appealing as the name Snapdragon.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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