More Plants That Don’t Need Bees

Plants that are pollinated by the wind lack the striking colours and strong scents of insect-pollinated plants.  Colour and scent attract insects; wind-pollinated plants don’t need either.

One common flowering plant that is wind-pollinated is the Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) or Neantóg in Irish. (1a) The whorls of yellowish-green flowers can be male or female.  Both are produced on separate plants.  The pollen from the male flowers is hurled into the air when the anthers explode in sunshine thus creating clouds of pollen around the plant.

It is an extremely useful plant both for humans and animals.  A nutritious food plant, the young leaves can be boiled and used as a vegetable.  Fibres can be made from the stem and it had many medicinal uses.  One was for the relief of rheumatism.  Bunches of nettles were tied together, and the affected parts were beaten with this flail.  This process was called urtification.

Nettle (1a)

It is also the only larval food plant of the Small tortoiseshell and Red admiral butterflies and mainly used as a larval food-plant by the Painted lady and Peacock butterflies. (1b;1c)

Peacock (1b)
Caterpillars of peacock on nettle (1c) Credit Joyce Fitzpatrick

Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata) or Black plantain or Slánlus in Irish also displays halos of white pollen-laden anthers now on its spikes of tiny black flowers. (2a) These flowers open gradually from the bottom of the spike upwards.  This pollen is blown around by the wind.  It is called “ribwort” because of the very prominent ribs that extend from the base to the top of the lance shaped leaf. (2b) Its relative the Great plantain (Plantago major) or Cuach Phádraig in Irish has much broader leaves. (3)  Both plants were used to cure many ailments especially those pertaining to the eyes.  “Slánlus” means health-giving.

Ribwort plantain (2a)
Ribs on Ribwort plantain (2b)
Great plantain (3)