Better than Billboards

The roads criss-crossing Mount Washington Valley are littered with signs trying to lure in tourists- "8 miles to Wildcat gondolas", "What I did this summer made easy, Mount Washington Auto Road", "$2 burgers!". They are in your face; they are everywhere; you can't miss them.

What you may have missed are the directional signs scattered about the forest floor. Or maybe you have noticed them, but didn't realize them for what they were. You know those beautiful clusters of lady slippers that graced the forests earlier this spring? Their pink hue wasn't merely decoration; it was a glaring sign for passing insects. "Free nectar!"

Why would a flower care if an insect came to sup on its nectar? As in our world, nothing is ever actually free. As an insect crawls into or perches upon a flower to retrieve nectar, a bit of pollen sticks to the insect's body. The insect then carries this pollen to the next flower, effectively pollinating it.

On a nature walk today, my group stopped to admire a patch of wood sorrel, one of the plants monitored by AMC's mountain watch volunteers. The wood sorrel's white petals stood out amongst the surrounding green vegetation, attracting insects. But this flower doesn't just attract insects to itself with color, it tells them exactly where to go. Slim, pink lines run toward the center of the flower where the nectar and pollen are found. These lines act like tacky, blinking directional arrows. "Get your nectar here!"

Now wouldn't it be nice if the Dairy Queen on the corner of Route 302 and 16 replaced its marquee with a giant flower?