Focus Topic 6. Flax Lily Pollination is a Buzz
The Flax Lily (Dianella revoluta var. divaricata) is a perennial herb (non-woody plant) found widely across Australia. It is a tough, drought tolerant species with long fibrous leaves and small delicate purple or blue flowers on a tall branching stem in early summer or late spring. Dianella revoluta was first described in 1810 by Robert Brown and its scientific name is based on the way the margins of the leaves roll back on themselves. The flax lily is well named, as for thousands of years its leaves have been harvested and processed to create string and woven articles. Aboriginal people found many uses for its fibrous leaves. They also ate the small blue berries that form after the flowers are pollinated.
Blue-banded bees are native insects that prefer warm weather. They love the flowers of flax lily and vibrate their wings at a specific frequency to release the pollen onto their hairy bodies. This is known as “buzz pollination”. Only native bees can create the frequency needed to release the pollen, forming very specific plant-pollinator relationships. Other local buzz-pollinated plants include Pearl Flower (Conostephium pendulum), Hibbertia species, Purple Tassels and fringe lilies, as shown below. These all have anthers that are closed except for an apical pore or narrow slit and lack nectar. Thus, most pollinating insects will not find food in them.