The fragrant, pink flowers of prairie phlox are just about finished their display for the season. Prairie phlox is a robust, drought tolerant prairie native that performs best in well-drained soils in full sun.
Use massed on the edges of small prairie plantings or along a sidewalk for a nice effect. The short, upright stature and thin leaves contrast well with larger-leaved prairie perennials such as prairie alumroot which flowers at the same time.
|Peck's Skipper Butterfly
Nectar is easily accessed by butterflies (and moths) from the disc at the base of the stigma with their long proboscis.
|European Skipper Butterfly
taking off from the flower.
Pollen is attached to the proboscis.
Most of the pollen falls off as the proboscis is coiled, leaving only a small percentage of pollen to be transferred to a receptive stigma on another prairie phlox flower.
Prairie phlox is self-incompatible and therefore requires cross-pollination by insects. In the study by Levin & Berube (1972), the number of pollen grains attached to the proboscis of a visiting butterfly drop by 15% when the proboscis is recoiled, and only 17% of the remaining pollen grains are effectively deposited onto a receptive stigma on another prairie phlox flower visited. Also, only 1% of the pollen that a prairie phlox flower produces is transferred to a stigma on another plant.
Relying on the longer-tongued insects like butterflies and moths to ensure pollination and sexual reproduction of the species is therefore risky as they are so ineffecient at transferring pollen from one prairie phlox plant to another.
Hendrix, S. D. (2000). Population size and reproduction in Phlox pilosa. Conservation Biology, 14(1), 304-313.
Levin, D. A., & Berube, D. E. (1972). Phlox and Colias: the efficiency of a pollination system. Evolution, 242-250.